Our tour begins on Thursday, July 24, a day before Quds Day, the Iranian Jerusalem Day which marks the protest against Zionism, and in the height of the fighting in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge. I leave home for work at an early morning hour, arrive at the bus stop and wait. All the walls around me and all the bulletin boards are filled with posters and pictures from previous years' Quds Day demonstrations, inviting Iran's citizens to participate in this year's protest.
I look at the posters, thinking about all the money which was wasted to print and design them, when a child's voice suddenly interrupts my train of thought. "Sir, would you like to buy a fortune cookie?" I turn around and see a little boy, not even 10 years old, out on the street at such an early hour trying to make a living. I cannot help but think about what would have happened if the great amount of money spent on these posters and protests would have been invested in education and in the studies of this little boy and many others like him.
The bus stops by the Shariati Hospital. Along the pavement, on Amir Abad Street, the walls are filled with posters inviting people to a mass protest against Israel with a call from spiritual leader Ali Khamenei for its destruction.
At the entrance to the emergency room, I spot an ad offering a kidney for sale with a telephone number. It breaks my heart. It must be another young man trying to fund his wedding expenses, studies or rent. And again I think, is it fair that the Iranian government sends aid to help arm the Palestinian groups every year, instead of investing the money in welfare or in the creation of workplaces and housing for Iran's young generation?
Lost in these thoughts, I move on to the Amir Abad Intersection and decide to walk through Laleh Park, hoping that the green and flourishing view will help me relax. But as soon as I take the first step, I realize something has changed. Unlike other mornings, when the music sounded in the park is suitable for exercising, this morning military marches in support of Palestinian fighters are blaring our of the loudspeakers.
At a distant corner, a young man and a young woman are sitting on the grass, enjoying each other's company and ignoring everything around them. They are forced to show their affection to each other here because the government invests the money elsewhere – the $250 million transferred every year by Iran to radical Palestinian and Lebanese groups could have helped young Iranians get married.
I get to work late, preparing excuses and apologies for my boss in my head, but everyone is standing around the television and no one even notices I came in late. Again the same talk about supporting Palestine and its struggle against Israel, this time from Iran's spiritual leader Ali Khamenei. He looks angrier than ever, hurling a variety of cruses at Israel and the Israeli people and calling to arm the Palestinians in order to help wipe Israel from the pages of history.
God, what is this terrible thing striking my people? What do these crazy people want from the Iranian people, from the Palestinians and from the Israelis? There must be a limit to insanity, extremism and barbarity. Instead of trying to bring about peace and a ceasefire, they continue to fan the flames and increase the bloodshed. Why must we tolerate these comments? I can't listen to this, just like you can't take the Code Red sirens and the Hamas missiles.
On my way home I take the metro, the subway train. At the station I run into anti-Israel posters again, but this time my attention is drawn to the citizens who are being crushed under the pressures of inflation, poverty and discrimination. How can they be a threat to Israel? Does their money have to make its way to Hamas and Hezbollah terrorists? How will we be able to forgive ourselves if our money, which buys missiles for Hamas, leads to the killing of an innocent child?
I wanted to show you in Israel what we, Iran's common people, are going through. I feel embarrassed in front of the Israelis, embarrassed and ashamed that some of the people in my homeland are involved in fanning the flames of the war between you and the Palestinians, and that their hands are stained with the blood of children and innocent people in Israel and Gaza.
Believe me, those who demand Israel's destruction are not the majority, but a handful of associates and mercenaries of the tyrannical and anti-human regime, and they do not represent the Iranian people.
We, the citizens of Iran, love people, love peace and support anyone fighting for peace. I love the citizens of Israel, I am interested in holding a dialogue with them and I am looking forward to the day when we will be able to purify the murky atmosphere between us and bring about peace in the entire Middle East. I have no doubt that it's possible.
Yours with friendship,
This letter is published courtesy of the TeHTel (Tehran-Haifa-Tel Aviv) website, a project of the Ezri Center for Iran & Persian Gulf Studies at Haifa University led by Dr. Soli Shahavr.