Iranian-American Filmmaker Bolsters Ties Between Israel and Iran by Honoring Tehran's Protest Heroes


JERUSALEM, Israel – Shortly after a young Iranian woman, Mahsa Amini, was murdered in police custody, and citizens throughout the country took to the streets in protest, Iranian-American filmmaker Hooman Khalili began commissioning murals throughout Israel and working with Israeli artists to support the Iranian women and others protesting against the Islamic regime.

His two most recent murals are the eleventh and twelfth in a series of 18 artistic works.

Khalili’s goal is to tell Israelis how much the Iranian people love Israel and that Israelis support the people of Iran.

“I really prayed with a lot of people,” said Khalili, who is a Christian. “I got a lot of wise counsel around me, and it seemed like this is what God’s plan was – to use these murals as an avenue to remind the world that the Persians have been the friends of the Jews for 3000 years.”

The two most recent murals honor Toomaj Salehi, an Iranian rap artist who was recently sentenced to death by the Islamic regime for standing with #WomenLifeFreedom protests. Salehi is the first male hero in the series.

“I always write on the murals,” Khalili told CBN News. “It’s time for the Esthers of the world to rise up. But Esther is only Esther because of Mordechai. And Toomaj is a modern-day Mordechai (Esther’s cousin in the biblical account of Esther, who risked her life to defend the Jewish people).”

Khalili explained, “His music supports the women of Iran. It emboldens them. It gives them the courage to keep fighting. So, when you say what’s the relationship between Toomaj and Israel, the world sees that the Jews are standing with the freedom-fighting people of Iran.”

Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, Jerusalem’s former deputy mayor, has been a big part of the project.

“Once the Islamic Republic of Iran started specifically cracking down on women, killing women, taking women prisoners for showing a strand of hair, we decided – the women of Israel, the feminists of Israel – decided to speak out,” she said.

“It’s important for us as Israelis and as Jews, that the people of Iran know that we’re friends,” Hassan-Nahoum declared. “We are all facing the same oppression. Hamas (is) the long arm of the Islamic Republic of Iran. And what I think people around the world don’t realize is that we all have the same enemy, the enemies of freedom, the enemy of freedom of religion, freedom of expression, women’s rights, and everything else, is all coming out of the same place.”

Khalili commissioned Israeli artists who share his passion and identify with the plight of Toomaj.

Dror Frid told us, “As an Israeli, I feel so much for the Iranian people that they’re like, suffering from this crazy regime. As an artist, I’m happy that I can donate something from my talent in this world to do something to save this man and all the other people in Iran.”

Frid added, “Two hands, two nations that want to be free. One day it would be freedom to Iran, freedom to Israel from this crazy regime.”

Emily Schrader and Hassan-Nahoum partner with Khalili on the mural project to strengthen the bridge between Israelis and the Iranian people.

Schrader recalled, “After October 7th we’ve continued to push forward these murals all across Israel, in Arab cities like Nazareth or in the heart of Jerusalem. We want everyone, every single Israeli, to understand that we have a shared destiny with the people of Iran and that this is something that has thousands of years of history from the time of Cyrus the Great – and this is also how the Iranian people view it.”

“I think that a lot of people inside of Israel are only now starting to realize that the Iranian society, the Iranian people, are 110% behind Israel,” Schrader added.

At the unveiling of the twelfth mural in Jerusalem, Khalili told the crowd, “This mural is very special. We have a Bible verse here for Toomaj: Psalm 31:15. His life is in your hands, Lord. Rescue Toomaj from his enemies, the Islamic Regime of Iran, and from those who hunt him down.”

Click on the video above to see the story. 

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