JERUSALEM, ISRAEL – Did you ever imagine a major Iranian political leader coming to visit Israel, not to threaten the Jewish people with genocide, but to offer his hand of peace, cooperation and mutual respect?
It may sound like fiction – like one of my novels – but it’s actually happening this week.
In an historic development, Iranian Crown Prince Reza Pahlavi – the son of Iran’s late king, or shah, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi – arrived at Ben-Gurion International Airport yesterday, accompanied by his wife, Yasmine.
“Yasmine and I just arrived here in Israel,” Pahlavi immediately tweeted to his 1.2 million followers. “We are very happy to be here and are dedicated to working toward the peaceful and prosperous future that the people of our region deserve. From the children of Cyrus, to the children of Israel, we will build this future together, in friendship.”
The reference was to Cyrus the Great, described both in Persian history and in the Bible as one of the most powerful and influential leaders in the history of the ancient Persian empire, and the man who gave the Jewish people their freedom, sent them back to Israel to resettle their homeland, and gave them both the permission and the money to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem.
Yasmine and I just arrived in Israel. We are very happy to be here and are dedicated to working toward the peaceful & prosperous future that the people of our region deserve. From the children of Cyrus, to the children of Israel, we will build this future together, in friendship. pic.twitter.com/yN4UO3ecQ0— Reza Pahlavi (@PahlaviReza) April 17, 2023
QUOTING THE BIBLE AND HERALDING “CYRUS THE GREAT”
Pahlavi is widely – but by no means universally – seen as the leader of Iran’s democratic opposition.
He has been living in exile in the United States for the past 43 years.
But never before has an Iranian leader of any kind come to Israel for a visit.
That’s what makes this unprecedented trip so fascinating and so worth watching closely.
The Pahlavis are being hosted this week by Gila Gamliel, Israel’s intelligence minister.
On Monday afternoon, Gamliel brought the crown prince and his wife to Jerusalem where they had a private meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara.
That evening, the Pahlavis joined the Netanyahus at Yad Vashem – Israel’s Holocaust memorial, museum and research center – for the opening state ceremonies marking Holocaust Remembrance Day.
This morning, Gamliel brought the Pahlavis to the Western Wall where the crown prince donned a kippah and prayed at the Western Wall, also known as the Wailing Wall for all the tears that have been shed there over the years after the destruction of the Temple and the exile of the Jewish people.
At 12:18 p.m. local time, Pahlavi tweeted out photos of both him and his wife praying – separately – at the Wall.
In the tweet, Pahlavi also quoted the Bible and commented on the prospect of peace between Iran and Israel, and the rebuilding of the Temple.
“So said Cyrus, king of Persia, ‘All the kingdoms of the earth the Lord God of the heavens delivered to me, and He commanded me to build Him a House in Jerusalem, which is in Judea.’” – Hebrew Bible, Ezra 1:2.
“2,500 years ago, Cyrus the Great liberated the Jewish people from captivity and helped them rebuild their Temple in Jerusalem,” Pahlavi noted. “It is with profound awe that I visit the Western Wall of that Temple and pray for the day when the good people of Iran and Israel can renew our historic friendship.”
“So said Cyrus, the king of Persia, ‘All the kingdoms of the earth the Lord God of the heavens delivered to me, and He commanded me to build Him a House in Jerusalem, which is in Judea.’” – Hebrew Bible, Ezra 1:2— Reza Pahlavi (@PahlaviReza) April 18, 2023
2,500 years ago, Cyrus the Great liberated the Jewish people from… pic.twitter.com/HIVOj5RvoZ
MIGHT GOD RAISE UP REZA PAHLAVI TO LIBERATE IRAN AND MAKE PEACE WITH ISRAEL?
Last night, my wife and I also had the opportunity to attend the ceremony at Yad Vashem.
It was a deeply moving evening that left us in tears after hearing one powerful testimony after another by aging Holocaust survivors describing their lives under the Nazis, recalling seeing parents and siblings murdered by the Nazis right before their eyes, telling the sagas of their harrowing escapes, and sharing their memories of immigrating to Israel and beginning a new life here in the Jewish state.
The crowd of several thousand included the prime minister and first lady, President Isaac Herzog and his wife, leading government ministers, the chief of staff of the Israeli Defense Forces, other top generals and the country’s chief rabbis.
Also present were hundreds of IDF soldiers, Israeli high school students, Jewish leaders from around the world, Israeli Evangelicals, and Christian Zionists from many nations, from the United States in the west to Communist China and democratic Taiwan in the east.
The guests around us were abuzz when they realized that they were seeing Iran’s crown prince emerge from a side door, shake hands with Israel’s top ministers and other dignitaries, and be seated with his wife in a prominent place in the front row.
Throughout the ceremony – and for several days in advance – I’d been praying for an opportunity to meet Pahlavi.
By God’s grace, after the ceremony I did have the brief opportunity to shake the hand of the crown prince, and tell him that as an Evangelical Israeli I’m praying for him and for the people of Iran.
Chatting with several Israelis and Jewish Americans in the crowd, I heard some real cynicism about whether Iran really can be liberated one day, and even whether Pahlavi has any real chance of uniting the vast Iranian opposition around himself and emerging one day as the actual leader of a free and democratic Iran.
Caution is warranted.
Perhaps skepticism, as well.
Both certainly seem like long shots at the moment.
But I see things differently.
I have no doubt that one day the wicked Iranian regime, currently enslaving the Iranian people, will both be judged by God and removed from power.
Several Bible prophecies – such as Ezekiel 38-39 and Jeremiah 49 – make this a certainty, though the scriptures are not so clear as to when exactly this will happen.
What’s more, I think it’s actually possible that the God of the Bible may, in fact, be inclined to raise up Pahlavi to a position of great power, especially if Pahlavi continues to tell and herald the life of Cyrus the Great, model his life after Cyrus, and look to the biblical record for guidance.
But Pahlavi cannot accomplish this on his own.
He will need supernatural help, the sort of help that only the God of the Bible can provide.
That means the crown prince would do well to start building an alliance with Evangelical Christians and mobilizing millions of pro-Israel Evangelicals to pray unceasingly for Iran’s liberation and for God to use him to make an historic peace and normalization treaty with the State of Israel and the Jewish people.
PUTTING THE PAHLAVI VISIT IN HISTORIC CONTEXT
To better understand how big a deal this visit is, let’s zoom out and get some much needed context.
As readers of my work over the years know, not a week goes by without the ayatollahs and mullahs of Iran crying, “Death to America! Death to Israel!”
As I discussed just last week on THE ROSENBERG REPORT – in my exclusive interview with Marziyeh Amirizadeh, an Iranian Shia Muslim convert to Christ – the terror masters in Tehran are literally hell-bent on building a nuclear arsenal capable of utterly annihilating the State of Israel, which they call the “Little Satan,” and the United States of America, which they call the “Great Satan”?
Because Iran’s current leaders are driven by what I call “Apocalyptic Islamism.”
That is, they’re driven by a genocidal eschatology – or End Times theology – that tells them Judeo-Christian civilization must be destroyed in order to usher in the coming of the Twelfth Imam, their so-called Islamic savior, to create a global kingdom or “Caliphate” and rule the world with an iron fist.
But there is another vision of Iran’s future – a brighter, more hopeful vision – one of Iran becoming a true democracy, creating a nation characterized not by poverty and radicalism and hatred of Jews and Christians, but by economic opportunity, prosperity, religious freedom and even peace with Israel and the United States.
It’s a vision held by millions of Persians who currently live in exile – that is, who live outside of the Islamic Republic of Iran, in the United States or Europe or elsewhere – and cannot go back to their homeland or they would be immediately arrested, imprisoned, tortured and even executed.
And it’s a vision that has a leader.
He’s not the only Iranian living in exile with aspirations to lead the opposition to the current regime.
But the son of the late shah does have credentials.
His father did rule Iran for decades – as both an ally of the United States and an ally of Israel.
The older he got, the more troubled became the shah’s rule.
The power of the SAVAK, the secret police, increased over time.
And human rights abuses increased.
In January of 1979, the shah was overthrown and driven out of Iran.
On Feb. 1 of that year, the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini returned from exile to Tehran and was met by millions of Muslims who believed he might actually be the Mahdi, the Twelfth Imam.
But rather than being the savior of the Muslim people, Khomeini proved to be their slave master, and created one of the darkest, most dangerous, most depressing and most destabilizing societies on the planet.
The shah and his family fled Iran and eventually landed in the United States, where the shah passed away from cancer.
Reza Pahlavi was 17 years old at the time.
He grew up in the United States and lives in Maryland with his wife and family to this day.
COULD THE “CYRUS ACCORDS” ONE DAY BECOME EVEN MORE FAMOUS THAN THE “ABRAHAM ACCORDS”?
There’s no question Pahlavi wants to emerge as the leader of a unified opposition to the current regime in Tehran.
Living in the U.S. – and so close to Washington, D.C. – has certainly helped him forge important ties with the White House, members of Congress, and other prominent and powerful leaders in government and business.
Since the surge of opposition by Iranians to the regime last fall, after the murder of Mahsa Amini by Iran’s “morality police,” Pahlavi has become even more public, more vocal, and more active in trying to fan the flames of resistance to the regime.
Coming to Israel this week was an incredibly bold move.
It was also top secret until Sunday, when the crown prince sent out this tweet:
“I am traveling to Israel to deliver a message of friendship from the Iranian people, engage Israeli water experts on ways to address the regime’s abuse of Iran’s natural resources and pay respects to the victims of the Holocaust on Yom HaShoah. I want the people of Israel to know that the Islamic Republic does not represent the Iranian people. The ancient bond between our people can be rekindled for the benefit of both nations. I’m going to Israel to play my role in building toward that brighter future.”
What has intrigued me most in recent days is the crown prince’s numerous references to Cyrus the Great, the extraordinary Persian leader described numerous times in the Bible as the man whom God used not to curse the Jews – like Haman did during the time of Queen Esther – but to bless the Jews.
Again, it was Cyrus the Great who gave the Jews living in exile in Persia the permission to return to Israel, to rebuild their country, and rebuild their Temple here in Jerusalem.
Indeed, it was Cyrus who gave the Jewish people the money to rebuild the Temple and restart their lives.
It’s not clear in the Bible that Cyrus knew and loved the God of Israel personally.
But it is clear from Bible prophecy that God chose Cyrus to set the Jewish people free and help them rebuild Israel, and that Cyrus fulfilled those dramatic prophecies.
So, how fascinating now to hear the crown prince of Iran – the leader of Iran’s democratic opposition, who still lives in the United States to this day – speaking of his admiration for Cyrus the Great and dreaming of a day when Israelis and Iranians are friends once again.
Here’s more from Reza Pahlavi’s remarkable statement, issued just hours before landing in Israel.
“The Iranian and Jewish people have ancient bonds dating back to Cyrus the Great and Queen Esther. As the children of Cyrus, the Iranian people aspire to have a government that honors his legacy of upholding human rights and respecting religious and cultural diversity, including through the restoration of peaceful and friendly relations with Israel and Iran’s other neighbors in the region.
“Millions of my compatriots still recall living alongside their Jewish-Iranian friends and neighbors before the Islamic Revolution tore apart the fabric of our society. They reject the regime’s genocidal, anti-Israel and anti-Semitic policies and yearn for cultural, scientific and economic exchange with Israel."
“A democratic Iran will seek to reestablish ties with Israel and our Arab neighbors – perhaps as part of a future Cyrus Accords. In my view, that day is closer than ever.”
Should the “Cyrus Accords” ever really happen, they would quickly become even more historic and famous than the “Abraham Accords.”
A statement by Pahlavi’s office noted that “the Crown Prince’s visit to Israel comes at a time when the regime in Tehran continues to race toward a nuclear arsenal, threaten Israel with genocide, provide Russia with killer drones, kidnap and assassinate dissidents, and brutally suppress the Iranian people’s nationwide protests after the murder of Mahsa Amini at the hands of the regime’s ‘morality police.’”
“Pahlavi,” his aides say, “has been the leading voice of the increasingly unified Iranian opposition supporting the people’s aspirations and offering a vision of a democratic Iran at peace with its neighbors.”
WHAT EXACTLY IS THE CROWN PRINCE DOING IN ISRAEL THIS WEEK?
In addition to visiting Yad Vashem and the Western Wall, Israeli Intelligence Minister Gamliel is introducing Pahlavi to a range of senior Israeli officials.
She’s also introducing him to Israelis whose Jewish families escaped from Iran.
And she’s taking him to a desalination plant to talk about the incredible breakthroughs Israel has made in clean water technology.
“I am honored to host Iranian Crown Prince Reza Pahlavi and appreciate his brave decision to visit Israel for the first time,” the intelligence minister told reporters. “The Crown Prince symbolizes a leadership different from that of the [ayatollahs’] regime, and champions values of peace and tolerance, in contrast to the extremists who rule Iran. Our nations have enjoyed good relations for thousands of years, since the time of Queen Esther who thwarted the evil Haman’s plot to destroy the Jews in Persia. Today, we are taking the first step in rebuilding the relationship between our nations.”
Bottom line: The cynics notwithstanding, Pahlavi’s visit is a very big deal.
Unexpected but immensely positive, especially amidst a very rough few months here in Israel in terms of terrorist attacks, massive protests against Netanyahu’s judicial reforms and Netanyahu’s plunging poll numbers.
But let’s be clear: Pahlavi’s visit is not the end of something, it’s just the beginning.
And rest assured, ALL ISRAEL NEWS and THE ROSENBERG REPORT will continue covering the pro-democracy movement in Iran and Reza Pahlavi’s efforts to unify the Iranian people around overthrowing the terror masters in Tehran – along with the prospects of a future “Cyrus Accords” signing – every step of the way.
Joel C. Rosenberg is the editor-in-chief of ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS and the President and CEO of Near East Media. A New York Times best-selling author, Middle East analyst, and Evangelical leader, he lives in Jerusalem with his wife and sons.