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September 4th, 2013
04:47 PM ET

Iranian president's surprising message to Jews

By Daniel Burke and Mitra Mobasherat, CNN
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(CNN) - Marking a sharp shift from his Holocaust-denying predecessor, new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday appeared to wish "all Jews" a "blessed Rosh Hashanah" on his English-language Twitter account.

Rosh Hashanah, of course, is the Jewish celebration of the new year. As Rouhani mentions, it began Wednesday at sundown. The image in the tweet is reportedly taken from a synagogue in Tehran.

Rouhani, a Shiite Muslim cleric, was elected president in June. He is widely seen as more moderate than former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, though his goodwill gesture on Wednesday stunned even veteran Iran watchers.

“Not even under the monarchy do we remember such a message,” Haleh Esfandiari, a native Iranian and director of the Middle East program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center, told Al-Monitor.

On Thursday, however, Mohammadreza Sadegh, an adviser to Rouhani, told Iran's Fars News Agency that the Rosh Hashanah tweet did not come from the Iranian president. The tweet came from former campaign aides, rather, who run the Twitter account, Sadegh said.

"All the news regarding the president, after his election, is reflected by his appointed bureau chief and those are the only official reports. Mr. Rouhani does not have a Twitter account," Sadegh told Fars.

A close aide to Rouhani, however, told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour that while the president does not tweet from his account, people in his office do, so it is semi-official.

Interest in Rouhani's Twitter account was nearly eclipsed on Thursday by extraordinary Tweets from the official account of Javad Zarif, Iran's foreign minister.

If the name of Zarif's interlocutor looks familiar, it should. @SFPelosi is the Twitter account of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's daughter, Christine Pelosi.

Ahmadinejad isn't as tech savvy nor as pluralistic as Rouhani, but on a few occasions, he would issue positive statements about Christmas or Rosh Hashanah.

The former Iranian president was much more widely known, however, for saying that Israel should be eliminated and calling the Holocaust a myth. Usually, Ahmadinejad would caution that he was criticizing "Zionists," not all Jews.

Fewer than 10,000 Jews remain in Iran, according to the JTA, the Jewish news service, which still makes it the largest Jewish community in the Middle East outside of Israel.

Religious minorities are not completely free to participate in Iranian government and often face discrimination, but Jews and Christians are, to some extent, allowed to live and worship openly in Iran.

As Washington Post foreign policy expert Max Fisher points out, it's difficult to extricate Rouhani's tweet from the context of Israeli-Iranian politics.

"It’s not exactly a unilateral declaration of peace – tomorrow, Iran will probably still support Hezbollah – but it’s yet another hint of Rouhani’s efforts to dramatically soften Iranian foreign policy and rhetoric," Fisher writes.

In honor of Rosh Hashanah, here are some other things to know about the Jewish holiday:

According to the Talmud, the world was created on the first day of Tishri, the seventh month of the Jewish calendar. So Rosh Hashanah is considered a birthday of sorts for the world. (Other rabbis teach that it honors the day Adam and Eve were created.)

It is celebrated on the first and second days of the month of Tishri, which generally corresponds to September or October on the Gregorian calendar.

Rosh Hashanah begins the High Holy Days or Ten Days of Penitence, which end 10 days later with Yom Kippur.

One of the most significant rituals during Rosh Hashanah is the blowing of the Shofar, or ram's horn. It is used as a call to repentance during the High Holy Days.

During this time, Jewish people attend synagogue services and refrain from working.

Another popular practice is to eat apples dipped in honey, symbolizing the hope for a good year to come. Also, challah bread in round loaves instead of braided loaves is dipped in honey instead of salt.

Pomegranates are eaten because the seeds are symbolic of the many commandments in the Torah that Jews must fulfill.

Another popular ritual is to walk to a river or stream and recite special prayers of penitence. Afterwards, one throws breadcrumbs in the river, to symbolically cast away sins.

- CNN Religion Editor

Filed under: Foreign policy • Holidays • Holocaust • Iran • Iran • Judaism

soundoff (659 Responses)
  1. Joe

    The jews were testing their attack missiles. Now the Iranian president is testing his missile defense shield. It's a master stroke.

    September 5, 2013 at 7:54 am |
    • geckopelli

      Very astute assessment.

      September 5, 2013 at 10:57 am |
  2. prophet

    we are praying to G-d for all of you in the world

    September 5, 2013 at 7:19 am |
    • truthprevails1

      Lazy lazy lazy...while you pray (do nothing), we'll think for you (you're obviously not capable of doing so for yourself).

      September 5, 2013 at 7:56 am |
  3. prophet

    repent and turn to G-d

    September 5, 2013 at 7:16 am |
    • truthprevails1

      Which god and what mistake are you aware of that any of us have made that requires your imaginary friends forgiveness?
      Godchecker.com will give you a list of god's to choose from

      September 5, 2013 at 7:54 am |
      •  Dippy

        Gods, not god's.

        September 5, 2013 at 1:34 pm |
    • fintastic

      Do you mean Thor?

      September 5, 2013 at 9:31 am |
  4. prophet

    we are praying for all the nations of the world.

    September 5, 2013 at 7:15 am |
    • fintastic

      Oh wonderful, another deluded self proclaimed prophet..... wow.

      September 5, 2013 at 9:34 am |
  5. prophet

    you must remember that the Yisrael now is not about serving G-d and again as so often Written in Torah The Yisraeli people turn from G-d and so many times He Asks them to return to Him. This is another of those times.

    Hear O Yisrael turn from your sins and return to Your G-d and repent and pray for them

    September 5, 2013 at 7:11 am |
  6. children of Israel

    Lamentations 4:22 he will visit thine iniquity, O daughter of Edom; he will discover thy sins. (Psalm 60:9) *Psalm 108:8 Judah is my lawgiver;

    September 5, 2013 at 6:22 am |
    • Doris

      Oh dear, not Lamentations. I always have to have some Geritol with a shot of espresso chaser after reading Lamentations.

      September 5, 2013 at 8:23 am |
      • C dizzle

        What is best in life? To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their vymmen.

        September 5, 2013 at 11:43 am |
      • Floridakrakker

        Doris – that is priceless. I needed that laugh!
        Thanks!

        September 5, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
  7. Yudhisthira Mahabharata Jr

    just gettin warmed up

    September 5, 2013 at 6:07 am |
  8. prophet

    you must remember that the Yisrael now is not about serving G-d and again as so often Written in Torah The Yisraeli people turn from G-d and so many times He Asks them to return to Him. This is another of those times.

    Hear O Yisrael turn from your sins and return to Your G-d and repent and pray.

    September 5, 2013 at 6:01 am |
    • Yudhisthira Mahabharata Jr

      live4him: do they have to count the folds in your skin to get to your secret garden?

      And, by "secret garden", i mean weed filled overgrown stanky patch
      sam stone

      September 5, 2013 at 6:06 am |
      • sam stone

        isn't that nice? bethany/faith/hhari/etc has a new screen name

        how is that big, big lawsuit coming, gash?

        can we expect to be served soon?

        September 5, 2013 at 6:18 am |
        • truthprevails1

          Sam: I think he/she has a major lust on for you.

          September 5, 2013 at 7:47 am |
  9. prophet

    some here have heir facts wrong, New Year for Israel is in April, This is What is Actually Written in Torah.

    again we hear human versions and not what G-d actually Instructed.

    September 5, 2013 at 5:56 am |
    • truthprevails1

      You poor poor gullible fool, human versions are all that can be verified. Too bad for you that you turned your brain to mush and as a result are too incapable of thinking for yourself. Find a cave and return to the 1st century style of living if you can't handle living in a world that is good without god.

      September 5, 2013 at 7:50 am |
    • fintastic

      @pro-fat....... "facts" require evidence.... you have ZERO.

      September 5, 2013 at 9:37 am |
  10. Yudhisthira Mahabharata Jr

    I promised my camel-toe I would not hoard flea and tick shampoo bottles. Ask Jesus into your heart and be healed of sin.
    sam stone

    September 5, 2013 at 5:56 am |
  11. children of Israel

    God of Jacob rules. *Psalm 81:3-4 Blow up the trumpet in the new moon, in the time appointed, on our solemn feast. For this was a statute for Israel, and a law of the God of Jacob. *Matthew 24:31 And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather his elect from the four winds from one end of heaven to the other. *Ezekiel 33:3 If when he seeth the sword come upon the land, he blow the trumpet, and warn the people; *Acts 17:31 Because he hath appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man who he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead. *Hebrews 12:19 And the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard intreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more: *Genesis 33:15 And Esau said, Let me now leave with thee some of the folk that are with me. And he said, What needeth it? let me find grace in the sight of my lord.

    September 5, 2013 at 5:26 am |
  12. zezen zaenal mutaqin

    Reblogged this on Zezen Zaenal Mutaqin and commented:
    Negara yang selama ini digambarkan sebagai kampium Islam keras dan anti Barat sebenarnya sangat menghormati perbedaan. Iran adalah peradaban tua dan besar...Salut baca post ini:

    September 5, 2013 at 5:23 am |
  13. children of Israel

    Psalm 81:3-4 Blow up the trumpet in the new moon, in the time appointed, on our solemn feast. For this was a statute for Israel, and a law of the God of Jacob. *Matthew 24:31 And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather his elect from the four winds from one end of heaven to the other. *Ezekiel 33:3 If when he seeth the sword come upon the land, he blow the trumpet, and warn the people; *Acts 17:31 Because he hath appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man who he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead. *Hebrews 12:19 And the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard intreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more: *Genesis 33:15 And Esau said, Let me now leave with thee some of the folk that are with me. And he said, What needeth it? let me find grace in the sight of my lord. *Luke 21:16 And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death.

    September 5, 2013 at 5:04 am |
  14. Vivian

    I'm glad to see a bit of tolerance exhibited by Iran's new leader. Now if he would do the same for the Baha'is in Iran who are being persecuted unmercifully by his government. Among the many Baha'is imprisoned:mothers along with their babies...their crime: holding children's classes for Baha'i children. Baha'is are denied all basic rights by the Iranian government. I will truly rejoice when this regime ends it's religious intolerance towards non-Muslims and all others who are not adherents to Muslim laws and cultural norms.

    September 5, 2013 at 4:53 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      To be fair, everybody in the middle-east hates the Baha'i.
      Christians don't like the Bahai because they don't buy into the Trinity and Muslims kill them because they don't say that Mohammed is the last prophet and the only one to speak to the entire world.
      While I can admire the goal of uniting all the Abrahamic religions of the world, the effort is ultimately doomed to failure because of the tribalism that is inherent in religion.

      September 5, 2013 at 8:09 am |
    • Sara

      I guess I didn't see it as such an impressive statement as the author did. Despite implications in the article about non-Muslims in government, there already have long been non-Muslim elected officials in Iran. Certainly there are restrictions, but not as extreme as seems to be implied. The Bahai are another story, as they are considered rebels from within the system...those who more or less saw the light and rejected it. The problem in Islam is still of not accepting a rejection of Islam by any memeber, and I don't see any indication that has changed. Nor is wishing Jews well any indication that they don't still want them to get the hellout of Israel. It's a lot like the Christian "We love you but want to break up your sinful marriage" position...a bit hollow.

      September 5, 2013 at 10:41 am |
    • Dippy

      Vivian: its, not it's.

      September 5, 2013 at 4:08 pm |
  15. children of Israel

    *Psalm 76:2 In Salem also is his tabernacle, and his dwelling place in Zion. *Lamentations 4:22 The punishment of thine iniquity is accomplished, O daughter of Zion; he will no more carry thee away into captivity: he will visit thine iniquity, O daughter of Edom; he will discover thy sins. *Psalm 60:9 Who will bring me into the strong city: who will lead me into Edom? *Genesis 36:8 Thus dwelt Esau in mount Seir: Esau is Edom. *Hebrews 12:17-19 For ye know that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears. For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest, And the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard intreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more: *Jeremiah 4:28 For this shall the earth mourn, and the heavens above be black: (Matthew 24:30 and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn,..)

    September 5, 2013 at 4:28 am |
  16. hharri

    A massive lawsuit is being prepared to sue CNN and WordPress for their active participation in hate speech, discrimination and terrorizing a religious group

    September 5, 2013 at 3:50 am |
    • sam stone

      ......and jeebus is on his way back

      September 5, 2013 at 6:21 am |
  17. hharri

    Stone references pleasuring Jesus on one's knees as his truth explodes into their mouths. CNN encourages this and blocks any attempts to criticize her

    September 5, 2013 at 3:48 am |
    • sam stone

      like what you are doing now?

      September 5, 2013 at 6:23 am |
  18. children of Israel

    Psalm 81:1 Sing aloud unto God our strength: make a joyful noise unto the God of Jacob. *Amos 8:10 And I will turn your feasts into mourning, and all your songs into lamentation; *Lamentations 4:12 The kings of the earth, and all the inhabitants of the world, would not have believed that the adversary and the enemy should have entered into the gates of Jerusalem. *Romans 10:21 But to Israel he saith, All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.

    September 5, 2013 at 3:32 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.