September 4th, 2013
04:47 PM ET

Iranian president's surprising message to Jews

By Daniel Burke and Mitra Mobasherat, CNN
[twitter-follow screen_name='BurkeCNN']

(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. hharri

    God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

    this, then, we see is the reason atheists cannot worship god. they hate truth. they detest it. truth makes them desperately, desperately, violently ill and their spirits suffocate as a result
    wicked witch and water

    stone's exhortation to pleasure the lord on my knees until he sprays his truth on my face is fine with these sick animals.

    September 4, 2013 at 10:27 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      I did not know where this gate led, but if it were away from this place it would be fine. If it were the very sea of fire in Hell, it would be better. I crossed through the gate, catching a glimpse of the chipping black paint and patches of gooey tack left by an injured shoulder or bloodied face.

      The darkness penetrated my body but I felt safer. Away from the glare of the blog that had witnessed my cruel act, I could neither see the crowd, my victim, nor me. I reached out, almost falling as an unexpected lunge escaped my body. Panic.

      September 4, 2013 at 10:29 pm |
    • Shayna

      Better to remain silent and thought a fool, than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt.

      September 4, 2013 at 10:31 pm |
  2. Apple Bush

    You are at a German “sparkle party”. You are wearing your party pants. You are ready to dancy dance. It is a hard-core German sparkle party and you are wearing your rubber boots. The music is pulsating and it feels good to dance. You notice a familiar face standing at the bar. You dance over to her as fancy as you please in your polished rubber boots. You bend low to smell her perfume and say hello. It is your father.

    September 4, 2013 at 10:26 pm |
  3. Apple Bush

    I have decided to convert from atheism to Solipsism. The ceremony is going to be a blast, I will be having all my friends and family over and un-validating their existence. Then it will just be a free-for-all. I will also be getting a tattoo of my own face on my ass.

    September 4, 2013 at 10:24 pm |
    • Athy

      That way you can walk backwards and no one will know the difference!

      September 4, 2013 at 11:49 pm |
  4. MASTER/SHADDOW/CASTER___________________

    consider this a kind gesture by a national leader -who is showing some willingness to at least be respectable and honorable -and this should define the character of a future friend or enemy . great men /generals even on oposing sides were respectable as there character showed them to be honorable men besides enemys /or friends -id rather in the next few weeks israel have to deal with this considerate national leader than the one he replaced .people must understand -if the us -strikes syria-and every national leader that pledged there word were to keep it .this would be or evolve into world war three really quick -examples – us promises a missle strike /limited on syria /syria desireing to break up a coalition states it would attack israel forceng israel to choose sides wich would loose half the arab coalition of the u.s. syria and possibly lebanon -now with iram and possibly egypt now have claimed mutual support and attacks on saudi arabia and israel in the event syria is targteted-russia promised it would attack suadi arabia and assit egypt wich said it would assist syria in a defenceive agreement -–israel stated publically if attacked by morte than one country or an overwhelming force or chem nio nuke wepons it would go nucklear – so the second isael seeincoming /from more than one country it would go nuclear so in five minutes after war is declared labanon /egypt /syria and iran and possibly russia or china would be toast -glow in the dark toast this was said on cnn news in 2005 at the time they had 149 nucklear icbms with 7-14 multiplr warheads each plus dummys and countermeasures .russiua sent anti ship missles – israel destroyed the convoy -russia has sent more to syria .whos ships will they target – american and french :{...

    September 4, 2013 at 10:23 pm |
    • Athy

      Ever hear of an upper-case letter?

      September 4, 2013 at 11:55 pm |
  5. HeavenSent

    Only atheist cowards steal my handle to spread the lies of the devil (satan). They are jealous of Jesus because they think they are their own "mini' gods. The kittens were cold in the fridge so I put them in the stove. Read His letter to us all, the Holy Bible.


    September 4, 2013 at 10:22 pm |
  6. Brian

    We need to hear more stories like this around the world. Its a start 🙂

    September 4, 2013 at 10:21 pm |
  7. navaJohn

    Well it's about time to see some GOOD news come out of that region. The world appreciates it.

    September 4, 2013 at 10:16 pm |
  8. Skeptic

    "but Jews and Christians are, for the most part, allowed to live and worship openly in Iran"

    Then how do you explain the Iranian-American pastor, Saeed, arrested on a visit home and held in solitary confinement?

    September 4, 2013 at 10:15 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      I am now esoteric in my feelings towards believers that that are agnostic.

      Before you ask, “Why does this matter?” ask yourself this question. Why shouldn’t it matter? Quit prosecuting me.

      September 4, 2013 at 10:19 pm |
      • Commenter

        Apple Bush:

        You lead the way and we'll precede.

        September 5, 2013 at 12:08 am |
  9. CathyC

    Wow. Iranian cleric wishing a good Rosh Hoshana to Jews, Pope saying "Who am I to Judge" about gays. Maybe tolerance is the new hate.

    September 4, 2013 at 10:12 pm |
  10. HeavenSent

    Jesus said he would send unto us teachers, having itchy ears. You lie about your father satan, saying he will grant your wishes like a genie. My camel-toe is smoking medicinal cannabis right now. Your rocks of lies will fall on the deaf ears of your comrades.


    September 4, 2013 at 10:12 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      Profit Pour

      This shaggy dog was prowling the bar and spattin’ out pussy hair like sunflower seeds.
      I have taken that walk with him.
      He never said much…that you could remember anyway. Not much difference in the pour either.

      September 4, 2013 at 10:16 pm |
  11. hharri

    atheists cannot see the evidence that billions see. if they could, it would be proof that they are not blind and they are not consumed with murderous hatred. but we know that they are both.

    not one atheist condemned stone's ponographic, violent, filthy posts. she has been shooting off her fat mouth for a long time and not one atheist has the guts to say a thing. she doesn't scare me. i think she's funny. yes, no doubt, of course she is a vile, desperately mentally ill, violent, disgusting hyena, but funny! she is hysterically amusing

    September 4, 2013 at 10:06 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Which one is stone, faith?

      September 4, 2013 at 10:07 pm |
      • Apple Bush

        According to HeavenSent, " Your rocks of lies will fall on the deaf ears of your comrades." So there you go.

        September 4, 2013 at 10:13 pm |
    • hharri

      so, point being, given the demented nature of those who try to make a case against god's reality, every thing they use they have twisted, created or lied about. iow they have nothing. absolutely nothing.

      September 4, 2013 at 10:15 pm |
      • In Santa we trust

        hharri, All you need to do is provide evidence of your god and it will be case closed.

        September 4, 2013 at 10:19 pm |
        • hharri

          sam stone
          HS always posts as if we should accept the same drivel she does.
          Probably has something to do with that jeeebus marital aid stuck in her stanky weedpatch

          September 4, 2013 at 11:43 pm |
        • hharri

          sam stone
          HS is still bloviating out of her stanky weed patch
          sam stone
          while we are at it, jeff, fvck you and your empty proxy threats
          sam stone
          tbt cvnt: finally, we agree on something
          go home, boy, and get your shinebox
          snivelling punk
          sam stone
          NOT claim persecution when some of those believers suggest you insert your bible into that overgrown weed patch between your legs

          September 5, 2013 at 12:42 am |
  12. Balthazaar

    H,mmmmmmm.....are you implying that not every Iranian is a foaming at the mouth moron like ahjustpeedmypants, the last leader?

    If ahjustkrappedmahself had not stolen the previous election Iran would have had more reasonable leadership for many years.

    September 4, 2013 at 10:03 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      To the U.S., there is no such thing as a "reasonable" government. Only an obedient one.

      September 4, 2013 at 10:04 pm |
  13. hharri

    atheists cannot see the evidence that billions see. if they could, it would be proof that they are not blind and they are not consumed with murderous hatred. but we know that they are both.

    September 4, 2013 at 10:01 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      hharri, many of us do see the evidence and that is why we are atheists.

      September 4, 2013 at 10:03 pm |
      • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

        Don't rise to the bait.

        September 4, 2013 at 10:04 pm |
        • HeavenSent

          Keep spewing the lies of satan and see where you end up. Christians come on these blogs to speak the Truth of Jesus. My 12-year-old daughter just loves menthols for some reason. It is time for you to start your walk with Jesus.


          September 4, 2013 at 10:08 pm |
      • hharri

        stone's exhortation to pleasure the lord on your knees until he sprays his truth on your face is your evidence.

        September 4, 2013 at 10:50 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      My muderous hatred is pretty well under control. Yours?

      September 4, 2013 at 10:06 pm |
      • Tom, Tom, the Other One


        September 4, 2013 at 10:06 pm |
        • hharri

          stone's exhortation to pleasure the lord until he sprays his truth on your face as you remain silent

          September 4, 2013 at 10:53 pm |
    • JimNasium

      Odd. Your statement implies that you're opposed to hatred while simultaneously offering proof that you embrace it. Not very self-aware, are you?

      September 4, 2013 at 10:13 pm |
      • hharri

        another phony, lying demon ad nauseam never condemned ms. stone. see how easy it is to dismiss everything they say?

        September 4, 2013 at 10:40 pm |
    • dgoren1

      In my experience, I have found the vast majority of atheists to be decent people that live by the golden rule. It is religious people that carry most of the hatred in the world. I think that's pretty obvious.

      September 4, 2013 at 10:45 pm |
  14. stephenc

    Very cool to see this guy making an effort to bring some peace and dipolmacy to the middle east.

    September 4, 2013 at 9:59 pm |
  15. HeavenSent

    You are safe with Jesus in your heart. You atheists just like stirring the pot. I promised my camel-toe I would not hoard flea and tick shampoo bottles. Ask Jesus into your heart and be healed of sin.


    September 4, 2013 at 9:57 pm |
  16. Chris

    As Admiral Ackbar once said ... "It's a Trap!"™

    September 4, 2013 at 9:55 pm |
    • Bob Geldof

      It's a rat trap, and you've been caught

      September 4, 2013 at 10:20 pm |
  17. Krakalakin

    Who is this man trying to kid? Religion by nature is combative when faced with competing beliefs. A sprinkle of sugar on a mountain of hate is just a waste of sugar. Better to endorse atheism.

    September 4, 2013 at 9:49 pm |
  18. Joe

    What the heck is a Rosh Hashana?

    September 4, 2013 at 9:46 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      Rosh Hashanah, of course, is the Jewish celebration of the new year.

      September 4, 2013 at 10:15 pm |
  19. Ken Puck

    Fake charm offensive. Anybody who buys into ANYTHING these towelheads say has an IQ equal to their shoe size.

    September 4, 2013 at 9:45 pm |
    • shamgar50

      Ken Puck, Which would be twice as high as yours!

      September 4, 2013 at 9:47 pm |
      • Athy

        He only wears one shoe.

        September 4, 2013 at 11:53 pm |
    • soul68

      I could just as easily say anyone who buys into this fake hate offensive perpetrated by the military industrial complex is a fool. And i'd be right. And you'd be a fool.

      September 4, 2013 at 9:55 pm |
      • D

        You must be talking about the US government.

        September 4, 2013 at 10:12 pm |
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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.