The chief rabbi of Iran’s Jewish community, Yehuda Gerami, criticized the Israeli government on Sunday, denying any connection between Judaism and Zionism and claiming there was “total freedom of religion” in Iran.

In a Hebrew-language interview with Al-Monitor, published on Sunday and broadcast on Israel’s Channel 12, Gerami denied that the conflict between Iran and Israel is a religious one, and took aim at the Israeli government.

“People tend to get confused, but there is a big difference between Zionism and Judaism. Judaism is a religion that is 3,300 years old, while Zionism is a national and political movement that is just 100 years old. As a country, the State of Israel has nothing to do with religion in general and Judaism in particular,” he said.

“The Israeli government doesn’t care about Judaism at all. Everything that they supposedly give to the Orthodox is because of some political deal or other, and not because of their religious approach,” said Gerami.

The rabbi also claimed that the situation for Iran’s Jews was good, but admitted that walking around in public with a kipah could be problematic.

“You can walk around with a kipah, but doing so simply draws attention. Because this is an unordinary act and it could turn into something unpleasant. With that, it doesn’t represent a threat to people. The sense of security among Jews is excellent and we don’t feel threatened in any way at all,” said the rabbi.

Gerami claimed that Iran’s Jews were safer than Jews in Europe.

“Unlike in Europe, for example, we do not have guards outside our synagogues and schools, and our personal safety is excellent. Of course, we sometimes encounter people who are anti-Semitic, but that happens everywhere. Most of the population respects us and lives in peace with us. What is important is that in Iran there is no such concept as organized attacks on Jews,” he said.

Asked why he paid a condolence call to the home of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, who was assassinated in a U.S. drone strike several months ago, the rabbi hailed the former Quds Force commander as a “national hero” who is “really admired” in Iran.

“What the Western world does not fully understand is that Soleimani is an Iranian national hero. He is really admired in our country. He showed great bravery in the Iran-Iraq War. Then, in the war in Syria, it was Soleimani who defeated the Islamic State, and this was very important to the people of Iran,” said Gerami.

This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.

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