TEL AVIV – Just as the Persians failed to wipe out the Jewish nation some 2,500 years ago, the Iranians of today will also fail, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Saturday night on the eve of the Jewish holiday of Purim.
The prime minister made his remarks before the reading of the Scroll of Esther at the central synagogue in Caesarea, the Jerusalem Post reported. He turned to the children surrounding him in costumes traditionally worn on Purim and asked them: “What is the holiday about, what do we celebrate, what do we remember, what did they try to do to us then?”
Several children replied, “To kill us.”
“Where?” Netanyahu asked.
“In Persia,” they answered.
“Did they succeed?” the prime minister asked.
“No,” one child said, “the opposite happened.”
“It didn’t happen, the opposite happened,” Netanyahu repeated. “Also, today they want to destroy us from Persia; they will not succeed.”
His comment was met with applause from the congregation.
On Thursday, Netanyahu compared the Islamic Republic to ancient Persia in his comments to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“I thank you for your good wishes on Purim,” the prime minister told Putin. “Some 2,500 years ago in ancient Persia, there was an attempt to wipe out the Jews, which did not succeed, and which we commemorate with this holiday.”
Today, Netanyahu said, Iran – the heir of the Persians – has similar designs: to wipe out the state of the Jews. “They say this clearly, and it is etched on their ballistic missiles,” he said.
However, Putin seemed to shoot down the analogy, saying the Purim story took place “in the fifth century B.C.”
“We now live in a different world. Let us talk about that now,” Putin said.
In his speech to a special joint session of the U.S. Congress in March 2015, Netanyahu famously evoked the Purim story when explaining the threat posed by the nuclear deal signed by then-president Barack Obama.
“We’re an ancient people,” he said. “In our nearly 4,000 years of history, many have tried repeatedly to destroy the Jewish people. Tomorrow night, on the Jewish holiday of Purim, we’ll read the Book of Esther. We’ll read of a powerful Persian viceroy named Haman, who plotted to destroy the Jewish people some 2,500 years ago. But a courageous Jewish woman, Queen Esther, exposed the plot and gave for the Jewish people the right to defend themselves against their enemies. The plot was foiled. Our people were saved.”
He continued by saying that Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, Haman’s modern-day heir, had similar plans for the Jewish nation.
“But I can guarantee you this,” he said, “the days when the Jewish people remained passive in the face of genocidal enemies – those days are over.”