Hanukkah is celebrated by Iranian Jewish community in December of each year, just like everywhere else in the world. This important holiday marks the commemoration of Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Empire in 2700 years ago.
Each night of the celebration one candle is lit on the Menorah until the 8th night. This event is to remember the miracle of a burning lamp at the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, which had enough oil for only one night, but the lamp miraculously burned for eight nights, and gave enough time to make necessary oil for the rest of the days.
Jews of Iran
Currently there are about 8000 Jewish persons living in Iran that the majority live in Tehran. Other cities that inhabit Jewish people are Shiraz, Isfahan and Yazd. There are synagogues in all these cities, which their architecture and design is coherent with the climate and architecture style of the city. In fact the Jewish community is well blended within the Iranian community and is indistinguishable.
Hanukkah in Iran
The Jews in Iran celebrate Hanukkah with prayers, music, singing, teatre and food. Hanukkah is celebrated in all Jewish schools and cultural centers. Candles are given to kids as gift and the elders recite the history and the story of the magical lamp. The food in Hanukkah is mainly deep fried. In Iran Sufganiyot Donuts and potato pancakes called Latke are prepared. Jewish people usually invite their non-Jewish friends to the Hanukkah celebration. At the time of prayers the Jews do their own player prayers and Muslims do their own. Also special food for Muslims is prepared and then they all celebrate together.
The history of Judaism in Iran
Iran has long been tied to the history of Judaism. Persia has been mentioned in book of Isaiah, Daniel, Ezra and Nehemiah. In the book of Ezra, Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia are praised for helping the Jews return and rebuild their temple in Jerusalem. In fact, Jews have taken refuge in Iran around 2700 years ago during their first diaspora and after Cyrus the Great took over Babylon. Unlike other kings, Cyrus recognized and respected different religions and beliefs in the newly conquered cities and became prominent for this declaration, famous as “Cyrus Cylinder”.
The first Jewish community in Tehran were living in Oodlajan neighborhood in the city center, very close to the Grand Bazar. Public places were built in the neighborhood, which some of them still remain. Keshvarieh public bathhouse was the first modern bathhouse in Iran.
One of the important Jewish structures in Tehran is the Sapir Hospital. it was built in 1942, as a clinic to help citizens against typhus and other epidemic diseases at the time of World War II. The staff of the clinic would visit the neighbors to check on their health, sanitize their homes and to cure the ill.
Ruhollah Sapir, the founder of the clinic died of typhus himself and his name remained on the hospital, which was upgraded from the clinic. The hospital has 102 beds and gets financial assistance from Tehran Jewish committee and Jewish Iranians who live abroad.
There are sacred places in Iran where Jewish people from all over the world travel to as pilgrimage. An important one is Tomb of Esther and Mordechai in Hamadan, who stopped a genocide against the Jews about 2500 years ago. The story is depicted in the book of Esther. Another sacred place near this one is the shrine of Habakkuk in Toyserkan. Also there are tombs of Salam, Solum, al-Qiya, and Sohuli in Qazvin which is called Shrine of Peyghambarrieh. Shrine of Isaiah is located in Isfahan, Shrine of Daniel in Susa and Samuel in Saveh, and there are many more.
Happy Hanukkah :)