A group of six Iranian Muslim dissidents and activists who had never been to Israel before on Thursday visited “Parag,” an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) military post near the border with Lebanon.
The post is primarily staffed by IDF Battalion 74 of the 188 Brigade.
The visit to the base near Kibbutz Misgav Am in northern Israel was hosted by Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF). The Iranian Muslim group was in Israel on a solidarity mission to renew ties between Iranians and Israelis. Their trip was sponsored by the Iranian American Jewish Federation of New York (IAJF) and the Institute for Voices of Liberty (iVOL).
Among those who took part in the base visit were: Foad Pashai, Secretary General of the Constitutional Party of Iran and member of iVOL Board of Trustees; Khosrow Beitollahi, retired Imperial Iranian Air Force member and senior adviser to the Constitutional Party of Iran; Amir Hamidi, iVOL Director and delegation co-chair, and former ranking officer at the US Department of Justice and attaché at the US Embassy in Abu Dhabi; and Ahmad Batebi, a former Iranian journalist who spent almost 15 years in an Iranian government prison as a political prisoner before escaping and making his way to the United States, where he now lives.
During their visit, the Iranian delegation toured the IDF post, where they could see into Lebanon and a Hezbollah terrorist stationed there. They also met with IDF commanders stationed at the post and received a briefing from Sharon Sheffer from the FIDF office in Israel.
While at the base, Batebi waved the old Iranian flag, which dates back to the time before the Islamic revolution, so the Hezbollah terrorist standing on the Lebanon side could see it. Hezbollah is sponsored by Iran and is one of the top military threats facing Israel today.
“Growing up in Iran, I was taught to hate Israel and its army, but when I visited the Israeli army base and met actual Israeli soldiers, they treated me like family. It brought tears to my eyes,” said Batebi. “These young men and women value life, unlike the Islamic Republic, which glorifies death.”
He added, “The Israeli soldiers told me that while the regime wants to harm Israel, they know it doesn’t represent the Iranian people. They wanted me to send a message to all Iranians that they have great respect for the Iranian people and Iran’s rich culture. I really hope that one day the people of Iran will be able to visit Israel, so they will see all this for themselves.”
“It was an honor to work with our dear friends from IAJF to support this unique mission,” said FIDF Long Island Chapter Executive Director, Pninit Cole. “We were excited to be a part of arranging the base visit and creating an opportunity for the elite group of activists to witness firsthand the reality of security challenges in Israel, as well as to witness the morality and humanity of the Israeli soldiers.”