Jewish and Persian Connections Mission

In response to statements emanating from the Middle East regarding nuclear threat to both the Jewish and Persian peoples, we seek to project an alternative voice on Jewish- Persian relations that disseminates knowledge about the historical and cultural ties between these two peoples, fosters friendship and openings for creative exchange, and contributes to the identity of adults and children of mixed Jewish and Persian ancestry.

Seeking Your Personal Stories and Intellectual Contributions!

Please submit your personal writings on the following topics:
a) Relationships between Persians and Jews
b) Raising a Persian Jewish child
C) Historical and/or current affairs between Persians and Jews/ Iran and Israel
D) Current Debate: Is the current conflict between Iran and Israel inherently tied into the Israeli- Palestinian conflict?

All submissions welcome including poetry, links and other recommendations. Please email any submissions to Authors are responsible for providing respectful, factually accurate, and fully citated submissions as a pre-requisite for inclusion. Articles should be a minimum of 2 paragraphs in length up to a maximum of 10 pages. Please use proper citation when referencing another writer or speaker. Assume no specific religious knowledge and explain all references to any religions. Translate all non-English words used, including Farsi, Hebrew, Arabic, Ladino or Yiddish. Writers wishing to anonymously post may use their first name only. Please send all submissions to All information outside of your submission will remain strictly confidential including your email and contact information. Thank you for your contributions!

Monday, January 15, 2007

A Report from Iran: They Still Like Yanks

From The Cultured Traveler. Volume 4, July 2002. (

by Mary Dell Lucas, Director, Far Horizons Archaeological and Cultural Trips, Inc

(Editor's Note: This article is a letter that Ms. Lucas sent to her clients in 2001 before the events of Sept. 11. Although the Iranian government subsequently manufactured anti-American demonstrations in Teheran and other cities, most independent news organization and travelers report that a majority of Iranians continue to hope for an end to the country's theocracy and a positive change in its relations toward the U.S.)


As many of you may realize, I was in Iran last June with a group from UCLA. Upon my return, many people expressed curiosity about the country and its people – thus, this letter. Here are my impressions of today’s Iran.

The biggest surprise for me was the friendliness, warmth and curiosity of the people towards us. Every day people would come up to us without hesitation and ask where we were from. When we said, “America,” the response was invariably, “America, we love America. Welcome, welcome.” Everyone we met seemed genuinely happy to see Americans visiting their country. I had many conversations with local people every single day, and each member of the group had stories about personal, positive incidents. No one seemed afraid to talk with us (quite the contrary), and during conversations the only subject that seemed to be “forbidden” was the government. More about that later.

My expectations before we arrived in Iran were that we would be somehow “controlled” on what we could visit, where we could go and with whom we could talk – that we would be isolated from the populace. This was absolutely not the case. In the evenings, we frequently went out on the streets of the cities in small groups or couples without our guide. Everywhere we went people would stop us to talk and to ask if we needed any help.

Sixty-five percent of the population of Iran is people under the age of 25. There are 16,000 students registered in electrical engineering at Tehran University. . .and no jobs awaiting them upon graduation. Believe me, these kids want access to the Internet, jobs that pay well, and rock ‘n’ roll music. They want to be a part of the mainstream of the western world. Throughout the country, I talked with young people about their dreams, and e-mail and the Internet were high on their list. We saw girls wearing jeans and sandals, with their painted toenails exposed, and makeup. They covered themselves with trench coats, but buttoned them only to mid-thigh so that their stylish clothes were exposed. And the scarf – the way that it is worn is a political statement. The women in my group became very attuned to observing how much of their hair was exposed, either in front or hanging in long ponytails behind. The religious rulers – the mullahs – are going to find it more and more difficult to keep these young folks under their control. I really do believe that there will be gigantic changes in the country within the next few years.

The clothing issue (and I know that women in the States are interested in what they can wear) is an interesting topic. Before traveling there, I had a concept of what could be worn that was quite askew from reality. I had purchased long, to-the-knee tunics to wear over baggy pants. In reality, pants and long-sleeved, loose blouses that covered the buttocks are certainly acceptable, at least on foreign women. The scarf must be worn, even if you also wear a wide-brimmed hat (which is recommended to shade the face from the intense sun). However, the scarf should be cotton and not silk or polyester, which are too hot. Turkish cotton scarves were the ones that all the women in my group ended up wearing.

Everyone, including our guide, was reluctant to talk about “the government.” People would talk about Islam and how the tenets of the religion don’t say that women must wear chador (the long black robes that hide everything except the face). I talked with the wife of a Christian priest who told me that even though there wasn’t discrimination according to law, that she was afraid of the right-wing fanatics. In Shiraz, our guide for two days was Jewish. He was considered the best guide there and was in very high demand. He was also a history teacher at the local university. A Jewish member of our group told me that she was so comfortable in Iran and found it such a fascinating country, that she planned to return and bring her children.

We were told that fewer than 500 Americans visited Iran last year, and several Iranians told me that the government wanted to make tourism the second largest industry in the country. I don’t think this will happen soon as the infrastructure just isn’t there. One of my clients went into the bathroom at the Hotel Laleh in Tehran, a “five-star” former Intercontinental Hotel, and leaned against the sink. It promptly fell off the wall! There have been very few renovations made in Iranian hotels since the revolution, and those that have been made have used cheap materials. The country needs a major capital infusion.

Things that we take for granted here are luxuries in Iran. For example, the communications systems in the hotels were unfailingly out-of-date so that I was never able to send e-mails, and had difficulty getting telephone calls out. For those of us coming from the States who were used to being able to be in constant contact with people back home, this was a very frustrating situation.

You might wonder about the lack of alcohol and whether that was a problem to American travelers. Amazingly (and I do love my glass of good red wine in the evening), this didn’t seem to be a problem to group members. After a few days, we began to realize that there were a couple of Iranian non-alcoholic beers that were drinkable, especially when very cold, in the intense heat we experienced.

A visit to Iran is definitely worth the “hardships” of traveling there (although we did stay in the best hotels in the country, one of them an elegant former palace!). The art and architecture there is incredibly beautiful. We saw opulent palaces with mosaics of mirrors and huge intricate paintings (Persian miniature style) covering entire walls 25 to 30 feet tall. We visited glorious gardens that have been in existence for centuries, filled with blooming roses and many of the same perennials that I have planted in my Albuquerque garden. The most surprising and impressive artwork to me were the gigantic carved panels, many of them thousands of years old, built into cliff faces by former kings. They were all over the country, and all of them were fabulous. I had never seen anything like them.

And whatever you read or see about Persepolis, the capital city of the ancient Persian Empire, doesn’t do it justice. The staircases, with carved, majestic processions of humans and animals, were some of the most gorgeous art that I have ever seen.

I could go on and on. If you have any questions, including questions about the ladies’ dress code, please give me a call.


Mary Dell Lucas