Here are 10 little-known aspects of the Jewish state’s history in honor of its 67th birthday, including when El Al flew to Tehran
By URIEL HEILMAN
Editor’s note: The Twin Cities Jewish community is invited to a celebration of Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israel Independence Day) — marking Israel’s 67th year — 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, April 26 at the St. Paul JCC, 1375 St. Paul Ave. Family activities will include an Israeli DJ dance party; Krav Maga, cooking and dancing demonstrations; live musical performances; food and more. For information, contact Corey Kirshenbaum at 651-255-4733 or: email@example.com.
(JTA) — Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day, falls on April 23. In honor of the Jewish state’s 67th birthday, we present, in no particular order, 10 little-known aspects of its history.
- El Al used to fly to Tehran
Iran and Israel enjoyed mostly good relations up until the Islamic revolution that overthrew the shah in 1979. Iran recognized Israel in 1950, becoming the second Muslim-majority country to do so (after Turkey). Iran supplied Israel with oil during the OPEC oil embargo, Israel sold Iran weapons, there was brisk trade between the countries, and El Al flew regular flights between Tel Aviv and Tehran.
All that ended a week after the shah’s ouster, when Iran’s new rulers cut ties with Israel and transferred its embassy in Tehran to the Palestine Liberation Organization. Even after 35 years of hostilities, however, Iranians have less antipathy toward Jews than any other Middle Eastern nation. A 2014 global anti-Semitism survey by the Anti-Defamation League found that 56 percent of Iranians hold anti-Semitic views — compared to 80 percent of Moroccans and 93 percent of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. For more on Israelis in Iran, check out the 2014 documentary Before the Revolution.
El Al’s Tehran office (Photo: Screen shot from Before the Revolution)
- Israel is home to hundreds of Nazi descendants
At least 400 descendants of Nazis have converted to Judaism and moved to Israel, according to filmmakers who made a documentary about the phenomenon several years ago. In addition, others converted to Judaism or married Israelis but do not live in the Jewish state – such as Heinrich Himmler’s great-niece, who married an Israeli Jew and lives overseas.
In Israel’s early years, the state was roiled by a debate over whether to accept German reparations for the Holocaust (it did), and Germany remained a controversial subject. From 1956 until 1967, Israel had a ban on all German-produced films.
- Ben-Gurion invented Israeli couscous (sort of)
The tiny pasta balls known as Israeli couscous — called ptitim in Hebrew — were invented in the 1950s at the behest of Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, who asked the Osem food company to come up with a wheat-based substitute for rice during a period of austerity in Israel.
The invention, which Israelis dubbed “Ben-Gurion’s rice,” was an instant hit.
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