A group of Iranian dissidents is on a historic bridge-building mission to Israel in a show of solidarity and in an effort to rekindle ties between the peoples of both countries.
As part of their four-day whirlwind visit, six Iranian expatriates – some of whom served in the military under the Shah or were political prisoners – toured historic sites in Jerusalem, visited Israel’s national Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem, and traveled to see communities living along the country’s northern borders as well as those living next to the Gaza Strip.
“I think it’s very important to stand with the people of Israel and to explain to them that the Iranian people don’t support this fanatical regime [in Iran] that’s at war with Iranian history culture, civilization and, most importantly, values,” Dr. Ben Tabatabaei, an international business and political economist who lives in Los Angeles, California, told The Media Line.
“They don’t support what this regime is doing in terms of providing funding to Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah,” he added.
The mission was organized by the Institute for Voices of Liberty (iVOL), a nonprofit that aims to educate Western audiences about the struggles of the Iranian people in the face of the Islamist regime.
One of the main goals is to present the notion of the Cyrus Accords, which seeks a renewal of historic ties between the peoples of Iran and Israel despite the Islamic Republic regime’s ongoing calls for the latter’s destruction. In the Hebrew Bible, Cyrus the Great is said to have liberated the Jews from the Babylonian captivity and allowed them to return to their homeland.
The idea comes on the heels of the Abraham Accords, which saw normalization and diplomatic agreements cemented between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and later on Sudan and Morocco.
“This [trip] is the beginning of something that we hope will snowball and get bigger,” Adam Lovinger, a member of iVOL’s advisory board, explained to The Media Line. “This mission is firstly about showing solidarity and secondly really about the future and starting a dialogue.”
The City of David, an archaeological site that some believe may have been the seat of the legendary biblical King David thousands of years ago, was among the historic places in Jerusalem that the delegation visited. The group made a stop in the Old City at the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest site.
“Today we’re on this historic mission,” Ellie Cohanim, former US deputy special envoy to combat antisemitism at the State Department, told The Media Line as the group made their way through the Western Wall plaza. “We’re here in Israel for the first time following the most recent Gaza conflict.”
Cohanim, a Jewish Iranian, added that though she had not been back to visit Iran since her family escaped years ago, she had high hopes for the future of the region.
“We believe in the vision for the Cyrus Accords and we believe in a free Iran,” she said,
Like Cohanim, most of the delegates were hopeful the trip would mark a fresh beginning for Iranian-Israeli ties.
“This is the start [of a new beginning] between the people of Iran and the people of Israel,” Dr. Amir Hamidi, a member of iVOL’s board of directors, related to The Media Line. “We can build this friendship because the Iranian people have been suffering for the past 42 years.”