HAMEDAN,IRAN (VINnews) — ADL director Jonathan Greenblatt claimed Friday that there were “disturbing reports” that the tombs of Mordechai and Esther in Hamedan, Western Iran had been torched, but the extent and the exact nature of the reported attack on the site remains unclear and no attacker has been identified yet, according to a report by Radio Farda, the Iranian branch of the U.S. government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty external broadcast service.
Iran’s official news agency IRNA on Saturday morning confirmed that there had been an attempt to break into the tomb of Esther and Mordechai, a holy Jewish site in Hamedan, but removed the report from its website two hours after its publication.
On Saturday morning IRNA reported from Hamedan that the perpetrator of the attack on the Jewish tomb of Esther and Mordechai had tried to enter the building through an adjacent bank but had failed in his attempt. The report said the Jewish shrine had not sustained damages. It also claimed that the perpetrator’s face had been recorded on CCTV footage and police were looking for him.
Karmel Melamed, a Los Angeles-based journalist and blogger in a tweet Friday night said his sources who have contacts with Iran’s Jewish community have confirmed that there was an attempt to set fire to the synagogue at the tomb but damages were minimal and an eyewitness told VOA Iran that he saw several fire trucks rushing to the shrine of Esther and Mordechai but authorities prevented people from getting close.
So far the Jewish Associations of Hamedan and Tehran have not commented on the reports.
The Student Basij Militia of the Hamedan Province threatened in February to destroy the tomb of Esther and Mordechai and to build the “Consulate of Palestine” in its place in reaction to President Donald Trump’s “deal of the century”. Friday May 15 marked the day of the Naqba (calamity), marked every year by Palestinians as the beginning of the 1948 exodus of 700,000 Palestinians from their homes and it is possible that the attack against the tombs was associated with this date as well as with reports of Israel’s new government discussing a possible annexation of parts of Judea and Samaria.
In his tweet on Friday Greenblat claimed that the tomb of Esther and Mordechai in Iran had been torched.
“Disturbing reports from Iran that the tomb of Esther & Mordechai, a holy Jewish site, was set afire overnight. We hope that the authorities bring the perpetrators of this antisemitic act to justice and commit to protecting the holy sites of all religious minorities in Iran,” Greenblatt wrote in his tweet.
While attacks on Baha’i sites in Iran are common, Jewish community property has been relatively safe, as Iran recognizes Judaism as a legal religion, while Baha’is are considered heretics and harshly persecuted.
Meanwhile, Elan Carr, the US Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, strongly condemned the attack on the tomb of Esther and Mordechai and called the Iranian regime “the world’s chief state sponsor of antisemitism”.
“[Iran] must stop incitement and protect its Jewish community and other minorities,” Carr wrote in a tweet.
“We are outraged by reports that the Tomb of Esther and Mordechai in Hamedan, Iran, was desecrated by arson last night,” the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations said in a statement on Friday. The statement also alleged that members of the Iranian Basij militia have threatened to raze the tomb of Mordechai and Queen Esther to the ground.