Iranian Jews Reject Urgent Warnings to Leave

Iranian Jews are ignoring urgent warnings by American Jewish community leaders and the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) to quit the Islamic Republic.

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Hana Levi Julian and Gil Zohar, | updated: 10:06

The campaign to convince Iran’s 25,000 Jews to flee for their lives has stalled. According to statistics compiled by HIAS, only 152 Jews left Iran in the year between October 2005 and September 2006, down 40 percent from the same period in 2004-5. The year before that only 183 Jews left Iran.

Sources said those Jews who left Iran in the past several years cited economic and family concerns as their primary reasons for leaving – not political considerations.

It would appear that the repeated threats by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to “wipe Israel off the map” have not raised an alarm among the 25,000 Jews who still live in his country.

Nor has a recent Holocaust denial conference hosted by the Iranian president seemed to have made much of a dent in the Jewish community’s unwillingness to move.

Last year’s contest by a leading Iranian newspaper soliciting Holocaust cartoons as a response to the uproar caused by a Danish caricature contest of the founder of Islam, Mohammed, has also had no noticeable effect.

Other minority groups in Iran are not wasting time, however. HIAS workers in Vienna have noted a substantial increase in the number of refugees from Iran of other faiths, including the Bahai.