Letter to an Anti-Zionist Idealist

Dear J,

If the proper study of mankind begins with man, as the poet Alexander Pope once put it, then it seems reasonable that the proper study of Israel should begin with the Jew. This, by way of permitting myself to stand in as that Jew and start with a personal tale: One afternoon in December 1978 in Tehran, only a few weeks before Iran’s cataclysmic revolution, a chain of knocks pounded the door of our home, rattling it in its frame. My father rushed to the living room, where we watched everyone’s comings and goings through the large windows that overlooked the courtyard. I buzzed the caller in. My father’s sister, Monavar, walked in — messily dressed, her hair an untidy mass, her face blurred behind a stream of tears. Alarmed at her sight, my father did not greet her, but cried out, “Monavari” — the added “i” was his diminutive for her — “what’s wrong?”

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