The Jewish Chronicle - - COMMENT&ANALYSIS -

Be­ing a non-re­li­gious North Lon­don Jew, my at­ten­dances at syn­a­gogue are usu­ally con­fined to hol­i­days, wed­dings and bar­mitz­vahs.

So it was the other Fri­day evening whilst walk­ing down a street that I came across the en­trance to a syn­a­gogue. Hav­ing some time to spare, I de­cided to en­ter.

Now this syn­a­gogue was not off the beaten track nor hid­den away be­hind an al­ley, but on a main street sur­rounded by shops, cafés and restau­rants. There were none of the ubiq­ui­tous guards nor­mally seen on most Lon­don syn­a­gogue doors and the build­ing was as full as I have ever wit­nessed a syn­a­gogue to be on one of the hol­i­days.

The peo­ple were gen­uinely friendly and in­vited me in for the ser­vice. There was no ten­sion in the air and peo­ple freely moved be­tween the syn­a­gogue and the out­side street with­out a care.

To stum­ble across a syn­a­gogue in Es­fa­han, Iran, was a sur­prise, and to stum­ble across such a well-at­tended one on a Fri­day night was a de­light. My visit to Iran was noth­ing more than a reve­la­tion and a les­son on hu­man kind­ness by the Ira­nian peo­ple — not those in power like Ah­madine­jad, but rather the peo­ple in the street, who are more than will­ing to dis­cuss pol­i­tics and the prospect of peace in the re­gion, not just for the Arabs and the Per­sians but also for Is­rael.

I left Iran with a sense of hope that at least the peo­ple there were not the West-hat­ing masses who are usu­ally por­trayed in our me­dia. I also came back to the UK with a sense of em­bar­rass­ment hav­ing read Me­lanie Phillips’s ar­ti­cle Now is the time to at­tack Iran ( JC, April 25).

I just hope my new friends in Es­fa­han, Tehran, Shi­raz and the other places I vis­ited never come across that ar­ti­cle. Paul Stevens Wolse­ley Road, Lon­don N8

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