Jews around the world just finished celebrating Purim. The Book of Esther tells us that the on the 13th of the month of Adar, Haman's plan to annihilate the Jews was approved by King Ahasuerus (Xerxes), but the opposite happened:
"On this day the enemies of the Jews had hoped to overpower them, but now the tables were turned and the Jews got the upper hand over those who hated them."
The reason for this holiday, according to the biblical account, is not vindictive jubilation. Rather, it is because on the 14th of Adar "Jews got relief from their enemies, and as the month when their sorrow was turned into joy and their mourning into a day of celebration."
This historic event that took place some 2,400 years ago still plays in today's politics.
In his recent visit to Russia, Prime Minister Netanyahu reminded President Putin that "in ancient Persia, there was an attempt to wipe out the Jews, which did not succeed.” Iran is the heir of Persia, and, therefore, there is a direct link between Ahasuerus' willingness to annihilate the Jews and present day Iran's desire to wipe out the Jewish state.
For his part, Putin insisted there was no basis for such a link.
But the Iranians were not offended by the link drawn by Netanyahu. Rather, they were upset by the assertion that the Persian king had planned to kill all the Jews in his kingdom.
Reacting to Netanyahu, the speaker of Iran's parliament, Ali Larijani, said that Netanyahu "has distorted the Iranians' pre-Islam historical era and attempted to misrepresent events. Apparently, he neither is familiar with the history nor has studied the Torah. Of course, nothing more than presenting such lies is expected from a wicked Zionist."
Similarly, Iran's Minister of Foreign Affairs Javad Zarif tweeted that Netanyahu is selling "bigoted lies against a nation which has saved Jews 3 times." According to Zarif, King Xerxes I, Cyrus and Iran during WW2 saved Jews, rather than kill them.
To be fair, Netanyahu should have been more precise. While at first Ahasuerus went along with Haman's plan, he nevertheless regretted it and prevented it from happening. In that sense, in a strange way this king did save the Jews from his own edict.
Like Netanyahu, many Jews believe that Iran plays a key role in the apocalyptic war that precedes the coming of Messiah.
Itzik Magrafta, a colorful and knowledgeable expert on the Shia Islam, commented on his Facebook page that according to Shi'ite theology, "Iran is a central trigger in the last phase of Israel's redemption … the coming hidden Mahdi will be the one who will allow the restoration of the Davidic Kingdom." As it was in the beginning, so it will be in the end, predicts Magrafta. Just as the Persians ended up saving the Jews all those years ago, so too it will be in the last days.
Whatever one's view is of these predictions, there can be little doubt that the events of the ancient past remain relevant in this part of the world, so much so that they continue to guide the decisions of contemporary world leaders.
PHOTO: Netanyahu reads from the Scroll of Esther at a Jerusalem synagogue on the occasion of Purim. Photo by Photo by Kobi Gideon / GPO