The Times of Israel reports: Sometime in the late 1970s, Yaakov Nimrodi, who served as military attaché in Israel’s unofficial embassy in Iran, hosted a number of high-ranking army officers at his Tehran home. Trying to impress his esteemed guests, Nimrodi asked his son Ofer to show them his skills on the piano. At first the child hesitated, but his father insisted, so he played a little bit. The Iranian generals loved the performance, and applauded heartily. Then Iran’s chief of staff, Gen. Fereydoun Djam, speaking in Persian, called little Ofer over to him.
“He took off his gold watch and gave it to me as a present,” Ofer Nimrodi, now 56, remembered. “I’m an 8-year-old boy, I have no idea what’s happening. But [Djam] said, ‘You played really nicely, you deserve it.’ I looked at my dad and he said, ‘No, General Djam, this is inappropriate, please.’ But the Iranian general insisted, and more than 30 years later Nimrodi, a prominent businessman and former publisher of the Maariv daily, still possesses the watch.
There are countless such anecdotes that illustrate the close ties between the State of Israel and the Iranian regime of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi before he was deposed in 1979 — a relationship utterly unthinkable in the current political climate.
Before the Islamic Revolution, thousands of Israelis, mostly diplomats and businessmen, sought and found their fortunes in Iran. A gripping documentary, by Dan Shadur and Barak Heyman, tells this “untold story of the Israeli paradise in Iran.”
“Before the Revolution” reminds viewers that there used to be daily El Al flights connecting Tehran with Tel Aviv; that there was an Israeli school in the Iranian capital — one of only two outside Israel; and that some Israelis made so much money in Iran in a few years that upon their return they could afford to buy large houses in fancy Tel Aviv suburbs without mortgages. Over 8mm video footage from the 1970s, the 54-minute film quotes Israelis saying their years in Iran were “the happiest times in our lives.” They recall Purim parties in Tehran that “felt like Tel Aviv.” Former kibbutzniks talk of suddenly having maids to cook and clean for them.
“Before the Revolution” — which is now being screened at film festivals, was shown on Israel’s YES satellite TV, and will hit international television screens later this year — does not ignore the more dubious aspects of Israel’s close ties with the dictatorial regime. The film contains some chilling quotes of Israelis who say they were aware of the regime’s human rights abuses (including torture of dissidents) but couldn’t be bothered with that, as they were busy making money and partying in the shah’s splendid palaces. It details the massive arms deals (Yaacov Nimrodi sold the Iranians advanced missile systems and 50,000 Uzi submachine guns). And it depicts a controversial framework of military and intelligence cooperation that likely included helping set up what became Tehran’s rogue nuclear program. [Continue reading…]