In a couple of months, Israelis and Jews around the world will celebrate Purim, marking the deliverance of the Jews of the Persian Empire from extinction 2,300 years ago. In Iran, the center of the ancient Persian Empire, the date will be marked with mourning and anger.
For years already, Iran has been teaching schoolchildren that Purim marks the massacre of 75,000 Persians by the Jews under the command of Queen Esther. It is presented today as an ancient Iranian holocaust perpetrated by the Jews.
The Iranian version leaves out the part where Haman, the royal advisor, convinces the Persian king to sign a decree permitting the wholesale slaughter the Jews of the empire. When Esther reveals her Jewish background to the king and reveals that Haman was tricking him, the king issues a second decree, allowing the Jews to defend themselves. By God’s grace, the Jews are largely spared, while their enemies are slaughtered.
This year, Iran may go further than simply revising the biblical account. Iranian authorities have decided to downgrade the status of the “Tomb of Esther and Mordechai the Jews” in the city of Hamadan in central Iran. The tomb had previously enjoyed that status of an official pilgrimage site.
Following the downgrading, the Iranian news agency Fars began pushing the idea that Esther and her uncle Mordechai were responsible for a massacre of Iranians, and that their burial place had merely been tolerated until now.
The Iranian news agency MEHR reported reported that a couple of weeks ago, a group of 250 militant Iranian students gathered at the tomb and threatened to tear it down.