I was so excited this morning because Nadereh actually arranged for me to visit a local synagogue. I went to the lobby at 7:00 am and we took a taxi to the neighborhood where the synagogue was located. We were going for morning prayers. The synagogue was not open when we arrived so we walked around the area for a while. Naderah had never done this before so I took her upstairs where the women would be. There were about 3 or 4 women there. Naderah was very nervous about my taking photos but I asked the women and was given permission. A man came upstairs to talk with us. It wasn’t the man that had invited me for Passover, but he knew we were coming. He welcomed us and assured me that photos were be okay.
It is hard to explain the feelings I had. Although I do not attend a synagogue at home and the prayers are all in Hebrew so I don’t really understand the words, I loved being there. The only way to explain it is that I feel connected to my grandparents, great grandparents, and my cultural history when I visit synagogues in other countries.
I have visited many synagogues in other countries, but I think this is the first time I have been there when they took the Torah out to pray.
After we left, I asked Naderah the name of the synagogue, but she didn’t know. I am so glad that I pushed Naderah to assure that this visit to the synagogue happened both because it was wonderful for me and I think this morning was an education for her.
Writing posts over a month after I return home is really crazy. I completely forgot to include something important in my last couple of posts so I am going to write about it today. On the 23rd, Bob was not feeling well at all. We were very concerned about him. Sally also decided to rest on that day. By the time we arrived back at the hotel, Bob was doing very poorly. Naderah took him to the hospital in an ambulance. Phil went with them. It was not until the end of the day that we got a report about from Phil about how he was doing. The were rehydrating him and the doctors were taking good care of him. He had to rest for several days. We were all happy to see him back at the hotel and ready to travel home on our last morning. I am writing about this because it is an example of how we were taken care of on the Road Scholar trip. This is the second time on this trip that Road Scholar assurance program took care of medical needs of people in our group. Others Americans (and perhaps Bri
This is a letter I had the opportunity to read from a person who traveled in Iran in March – about a month before our group. Since it was posted on the web already, I feel okay about sharing it on my post.
An American Casualty of US Economic Sanctions on Iran
By David Hartsough,
March 6, 2019
I went to Iran with a peace delegation of 28 Americans organized by Code Pink, a women-led peace activist group.
The first day in Iran we had a very fruitful hour-and-half conversation with Javad Zarif, the Foreign Minister of Iran. He listened to our thoughts and concerns and then shared his perspectives about what is needed to help move our countries to a more peaceful and mutually respectful relationship.
Unfortunately, during that day I got increasingly severe chest pains. Friends encouraged me to go a hospital to have my heart checked. We went to the Shahram Hospital where they quickly did tests and discovered that there was major blockage in the arteries of my heart. The doctor in charge encouraged me to undergo surgery immediately (angioplasty) to avoid having a heart attack.
My heart was heavy in more ways than one. I had been working on and looking forward to this trip to Iran for many months. I hoped that our delegation could contribute to moving our government from extreme economic sanctions and threats of war toward building peace and mutual understanding.
The hospital was ready to do the medical procedure the next morning. My health insurance in the US is with Kaiser Permanente, and Kaiser tells all their members that they are covered for any medical problems while traveling outside of the US. However, when we checked with Kaiser, I was told that they could not send the money to cover the procedure because of the US economic sanctions against Iran.
We appealed that decision but were told the decision was final. No money could be sent to Iran for medical care, even of an emergency nature for US citizens. The doctors also told me that if I were to fly back to the US without surgery, I could very possibly have a heart attack – which could be fatal.
For each of three days they prepared me for the surgery, but for three days the answer came back “NO. No money could be sent to Iran for this procedure. It was not permitted by US government.”
Fortunately for me, two wonderful women at the US interest section of the embassy of Switzerland in Iran, heard about my situation and were able to convince the US embassy in Switzerland to loan the money to me to be used for my medical procedure. Within hours I was moved to The Pars hospital, which specializes in heart work and the procedure was done by Dr. Tiznobeyk, a very skilled heart surgeon.
I spent another night in the hospital and then went back to the hotel to recuperate. I am, of course, very grateful to be alive but am acutely aware that people in Iran can’t turn to the Swiss embassy for help.
While in hospitals in Iran I talked with doctors and nurses, and heard many stories about people who could not get needed medicines for their illnesses, and died as a result. For example, one person had cancer and the medicines were available in Europe, but they could not do the financial transactions to buy them and she died.
The economic sanctions have also caused extreme inflation and the cost of food, medicine and other necessities grows almost daily.
I have come to understand that economic sanctions are indeed acts of war. And the people who are suffering are not the government or religious leaders of Iran, but the ordinary people. I hope my personal story may be helpful to assist Americans to realize the violence of economic sanctions in which millions of people of Iran continue to suffer and die because of our government’s policies. I fully agree with what the Iranian Foreign Minister told us: You cannot get security for one country at the expense of security for other countries. We badly need to learn that real security can only be found when we have security for all nations.
I come back home with a heart which is much stronger but also with a much greater commitment to stop US policies of economic sanctions which I believe are acts of war. I will continue the work of getting the US to rejoin the Iran nuclear agreement and get on the track of peace-building rather than threatening acts of war. I hope you will join me.
David Hartsough is a Quaker from San Francisco, author of Waging Peace: Global Adventures of a Lifelong Activist, Director of Peaceworkers and Co-founder of World beyond War and the Nonviolent Peaceforce
For more info on the trip see: codepink.org/iranblogs
For more info on the effect of US sanctions on Iran see:
https://worldbeyondwar.org/iranian-sanctions-iraq-redux/ and https://worldbeyondwar.org/fear-hate-and-violence-the-human-cost-of-us-sanctions-on-iran/
Throughout this trip, I have had contact with warm, friendly people in Iran. I am still overwhelmed with the insanity of what our governments (both of them) are doing. I am embarrassed by mine.
Now for our last day both in Tehran (actually the last day in Iran). We visited 3 sites.
- Azadi-Tower (Freedom Tower)
- Former US Embassy
- Golestan Palace
The Azadi-Tower (Freedom Tower) formerly known as the Shahyad Tower was commissioned by Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the last Shah of Iran to mark the 2500th year of the foundation of the Imperial State of Iran.
Of course we took a group photo.
These plastic sculptures were across the street from the Tower.
I loved the sculpture of the man taking a selfie.
we drove to the former US Embassy. It was a bummer not to be able to get out of the bus and walk by it especially since there weren’t even any demonstrators near the site. It is quite interesting that the sign in front of it says, “US Den of Espionage Museum – Former US Embassy.”
These are other photos of the walls near the former embassy.
These men were playing music outside of the “embassy.”
Again, we had a lot of traffic.
The place were we had lunch served the strangest drink made with Hershey’s syrup.
There were some cute decorations around our lunch place.
I loved watching the children practicing with a soccer ball.
The last place we visited on this trip was Golestan Palace.It is a masterpiece of the Qajar era. These people stopped to talk with me ad take my photo. Of course, I took a photo of them.
The walled Palace, one of the oldest groups of buildings in Teheran, became the seat of government of the Qajar family, which came into power in 1779 and made Tehran the capital of the country. It was built around a garden featuring pools as well as planted areas.
Here are my photos.
The palace complex houses the Versailles-inspired, mirror encrusted Marble Throne Hall used for the coronation of the last Shah and several other mirrored rooms.
All of these mirrors made us dizzy.
I enjoyed talking with this woman and her daughter when we were inside.
This woman is getting water from a public source near the complex.
Here are more photos from the palace area.
These men were doing repairs.
This is the Crown of Agha Mohammad Khan Qajar (the first king of the Qajar dynasty – 1788- 1790). It is copper-enameled.
More mirrored rooms and chandeliers.
Even the ceiling where they were attached was beautiful.
We returned to the hotel to get packed and ready for our final dinner. I wore my new tunic. Sami, Jane, and I took a photo in the lobby.
It was such a treat to see a bride and groom enter the hotel.
These adorable children were at the hotel for the wedding.
Tonight at our final dinner, we celebrated Bob’s and Kay’s anniversary …
… and Sally’s birthday.
These men were in the hotel restaurant with us. Somebody asked me to find out what they were smoking.
Of course I did. They were from Eastern Turkey (Mardin, Sanliurfa and other eastern cities) – all places that I visited when Elaine Newland and I were traveling in Turkey. When they told me they were smoking Nargile or Turkish Water pipe with different flavors of Turkish tobacco. I laughed out loud remember all the Nargile centers we saw in Eastern Turkey.
Of course I had to take a photo with them. I have no idea what the man in the background was doing when we were taking the photo. He was not one of the men from the group.
When dinner was over, I asked Sami if he wanted to go meet these men. He declined. I sure hope it wasn’t because they were Kurdish.
Well after dinner I called Mahsa, another Servas representative, to tell her that Naderah had gone home with her Mom who she had brought to our dinner. Mahsa told me that she lived way on the other side of Tehran and it would take her way over an hour to get to the hotel because it was Thursday night – the beginning of the Friday holiday. She suggested that I wait in my room, but I told her that I enjoyed sitting in the lobby. I am so glad I did that.
I wandered around for a bit and entered a room where the wedding was being celebrated. There were all men in the room and some of them were dancing. I was given permission to take a photo ..
…and then I left to sit in the hotel lobby. A man walked up to me and asked me if I wanted to see the women. What I heard him say is “Vomen” and I didn’t understand him. He said it a couple of times so I decided to follow him. I was thinking, “Now I may get myself into trouble.” He took me to the 2nd floor, pointed to a room and said that he couldn’t go into the room with me. Finally I understood that it was where the women were celebrating.
When entered the room, I was warmly greeted by many women. They were laughing and dancing. We took many photos but I was advised not to post those photos because many of the women were not wearing scarves. It was okay for them because no men were in the room, but posting the photos would not be okay. It was okay for me to post the photos of the children who were dancing and having a wonderful time …
… and the mother of the bride with bride’s aunt.
They invited me to eat with them and even though I had already had dinner, I sat down with a group of women. I was at the party for over an hour. Words do not express how wonderful this was for my last night in Tehran.
And it wasn’t over. I sat in the lobby and had very brief conversations with many of the guests as they were leaving. At about 12:00, Mahsa arrived and we talked for about an hour.
I wasn’t even tired. I was again so thankful that I belong to Servas and that Servas representatives from Iran were willing to drive all the way to my hotel to meet with me.
It was after 1:00 am when I went to the room. We had to get up before 3:00 to be in the lobby in time to leave in time to get to the airport by 4:30 am.
I have been home for 6 weeks and finally finishing the posts to this blog. I wish I could have remembered more details but I am happy that I at least was able to upload many photos and memories.
Although there are many parts of this trip (size of group, big bus rides, restrictions on our movement, being too short, not having enough time to be in small villages and to talk with people), I am very happy that I took this trip to Iran. I am incredibly privileged to have had this opportunity to see sights that many Americans will never see. The Iranian people are exceptionally friendly. Almost every time I made any I contact, just by saying “Salam,” they would greet me back. Chetori (How are your) and Hoobam (I am well), they would smile and repeat the same to me. When somebody actually stopped to talk with me or take photos and I said, “Iran zibast,” which means. “Iran is beautiful,” they would show their joy. I loved the times when I met people who wanted to take photos with us using their cameras. If there was any conversations in English, it usually was about how the people of Iran and U.S. are wonderful but the government is not. These brief interactions and connections with the people of Iran showed me once again that people to people contact is what we must have to even begin to creating peace in our crazy world.
June 9, 2019 at 9:01 am
So enjoyed your reporting on visit to Iran. Yes, people to people connection must happen.
Thanks for taking the time to write.