Israel National News TV visited a new exhibition at Beit HaTfutzot (the Diaspora Museum) in Tel Aviv, called "Light and Shadows: The Story of Iran and the Jews".

---For video link and photos, see below. To hear about it Israel National Radio's Landmines show, click here. ---

"Light and Shadows" is an unprecedented exhibition devoted to the history, culture and contemporary life of Iranian Jewry, and is the first ever to present a comprehensive, in-depth portrait of Iranian Jewry. The exhibition introduces visitors to the fascinating world of an ancient community and to its cultural, social, economic and political life. This intriguing story unfolds over more than three thousand years: it begins with the first Jews exiled from Jerusalem by the Babylonians, and ends in the present, with most members of this community scattered throughout the world.

The exhibition includes archeological artifacts that are being publicly displayed now for the first time, and which reveal fascinating details concerning the ancient life of the Iranian Jewish community. Also featured is a wide range of alluring and stunning cultural artifacts, including ancient manuscripts, talismans, carpets, and both secular and religious music. The exhibition also includes contemporary artworks by Iranian Jewish artists now living in Israel, Europe and the United States.

(Picture: The Book of Esther, Iran, 18th century.
Courtesy of the Meragi Family, USA)

"Iran was, and continues to be, a mosaic of different ethnicities, religions, cultures and languages," explained the organizers at Beit Hatfutsot. "The Jewish communities in the country were similarly distinguished by unique traits, and each has a somewhat different story. The life of Iranian Jews was marked by persecution, prohibitions and social marginalization. At the same time, the Jews also enjoyed periods of prosperity and integration into the complex and fascinating Persian sphere, and exerted a significant influence on local culture and society. This exhibition presents these two opposite poles in a clear and compelling manner.

"At a time when Iran is habitually mentioned in the context of warfare, it is especially interesting to examine other aspects of Iranian culture and society, which are based on the cultural connection between the Jewish and Israeli sphere and the Persian sphere."

(Picture: Clay Tablets, Persia, Al-Yahudu, fifth century BCE
Collection of David Sofer, London)
According to Prof. David Yeroushalmi, a member of the Center for Iranian Studies at Tel Aviv University and the exhibition's historical advisor, some 20,000 Jews still live in Iran today. They are mostly centered in Tehran and in the two ancient communities of Isfahan and Shiraz, and maintain a strong connection with Judaism and with the Iranian Jewish community's unique cultural legacy.

(Picture: Bahram-o Goldanam, Illuminated Manuscript, Iran, 17th century
Collection of David Khalili, London)

Exhibition curator Hagai Segev notes that, "The portrayal of this unique community has been a fascinating challenge. The community's history is told through an assemblage of authentic objects and images that attest to the rich life of the Iranian Jewish community: a life marked by moments of great cultural achievement followed by periods of great difficulty, persecution, and oppression."

"Light and Shadows: The Story of Iran and the Jews" appears at Beit Hatfutsot until April 30, 2011.

(Picture: Pair of Finials, Iran, Yazd 1933.
Collection of the Yazdi Tiferet Yerusalim Synagogue, Israel)