Until the recent arrests, Jews in Iran had survived the 20-
year dominion of Iran's ruling ayatollahs better than many
feared in 1979, when the Islamic republic was declared.
In fact, the 30,000 Jews in Iran, while down from the 80,000
who lived there before the revolution, constitute the largest
Jewish community to have survived in the Muslim Middle East
and North Africa. The only other one of similar size is in
Turkey, another non-Arab country, where about 20,000 Jews
The Iranian Jews' significance becomes clearer when their
endurance is measured against what happened elsewhere after
the birth of Israel. From Morocco through Algeria, Tunisia,
Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Turkey, Jewish
communities that totaled perhaps 1 million people in 1948
dwindled between the 1950s and 1980s to the point that barely
60,000--including the 50,000 in Iran and Turkey--remain.
But now, Iran's Jews must worry that tactics used against
Jewish minorities elsewhere could erode their security,
making migration more attractive.
Iraq, where there were about 150,000 Jews in 1948, has about
70 now. In Syria, there are about 300, in Lebanon about 80,
in Jordan, Egypt and Yemen fewer still. In Saudi Arabia there
are no Jews, at least by official count. In Morocco, which
had about 300,000 Jews in 1948, about 6,000 remain.
In Algeria, which saw 115,000 Jews emigrate hastily to France
at independence in 1962, the count is down to a few hundred.
In Tunisia, which counted 105,000 Jews in 1950, there are no
more than 2,500. In Libya, where a 1931 census counted 24,500
Jews, one recent count put the number of Jews remaining at
five. In Turkey, a community of 90,000 in 1948 has shrunk to
less than a quarter of that now.