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4 Aug, 2006 06:05

A Jewish community - thriving in Muslim Iran

A Jewish community -  thriving in Muslim Iran

Despite often inflammatory comments from Iran's President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a Jewish community in Iran has co-existed peacefully with those of the Islamic faith for many centuries.

An inconspicuous building close to the centre of Tehran is the focus of Judaism in the heart of this Muslim republic. The minority group, now 25,000-strong,  has been living among the wider community for almost 3,000 years, since the times of ancient pre-Islamic Persia. Its members have preserved their unique culture, traditions and religion in the midst of a population of 70 million. Nonetheless, they have a representative in the Iranian parliament and receive state ministry support.

The Jewish community has opened schools for its children, and libraries and hospitals. The Dr Sapir clinic is one of the biggest in Iran, treating about 200 patients a day. This is a charity hospital and people pay nothing for care. Ninety-eight per cent of the patients are Muslims, attending one of the most-respected clinics in Tehran.