Israeli passports left behind
While the Iranian regime has been engaging in public displays of hatred against Israel in recent months, with the country's president calling for Israel's destruction and denying the Holocaust, behind the scenes the picture seems very different.
In recent weeks the Muslim republic has been enjoying the skills of Israeli experts recruited to help with rehabilitating the country after recent earthquakes have caused massive damages and devastation.
Three Israeli infrastructure consultants who returned to Israel at the end of the week from a secret visit in Iran on the invitation of a Tehran official, told Israel's leading daily Yedioth Ahronoth they were stunned by their stay in the country.
"We were amazed to discover the gap between Israel's public conflict with Iran, and the depth of the commercial cooperation between the countries, estimated at dozens of millions of dollars a year. We were greeted warmly and felt no hostility on the part of our hosts," one of the Israeli experts said.
The Israeli consultants were sent to Iran on behalf of a Dutch company that is partly owned by an Israeli. The company recruited the Israeli engineers and advisors, who specialize in infrastructure rehabilitation works, and flew them to Iran with special travel passes, after leaving their Israeli passports behind in Holland.
'Surprise' awaiting in Busher
The head of the mission, a 47-year-old Israeli who visited Iran five times in the last 15 years, recounted the visit. "Upon arriving at the airport in Tehran we were greeted by a government employee… from there we were taken to a luxurious hotel located near the Jewish district. We were escorted by a security guard during our entire stay."
"The grand infrastructure works Israel has carried out here made a huge impression on us… we got there with the construction plans that were kept in Israel until today," he explained.
"In recent years trade relations between Israel and Iran have blossomed in certain fields, mainly agriculture. The Iranians indirectly buy from Israel spare parts for machines, vegetable seeds, and water filtering systems," he stated.
According to the Israeli consultant, the most exciting part of the visit took place when the mission arrived in the Busher region, which made headlines recently due to the nuclear reactor located in the area. "Our escort, an English-speaker, told us: There is something else here in Busher, but this will be a surprise for you'."
Pesach in Tehran
In Tehran, the Israelis received a taste of a slightly different Iran. "In the evenings we went out in Tehran. Despite the fundamentalist Muslim appearance of its leaders, the capital's nightlife somewhat resemble the West's. There are a lot of youngsters who go out to discos, where the young women take off their veils and skirts and dance in jeans," he said.
The delegation also got to celebrate the Pesach holiday with the local Jewish community in Tehran, which comprises 26,000 people.
"They knew we were from Israel, although we did not mention it out loud. There were matzos and plenty of food and wine, everything you need for Pesach. The Jews there live their lives uninterrupted. They engage in trade and have their synagogues. However, since the new president's ascension to power, the atmosphere is definitely tense and the authorities guard the synagogues," he said.
Upon returning to Israel, the Israeli experts have already briefed a government official on the visit, and are expected to travel to Iran again in the coming months for more work.