While a university student in Iran, she came across a book containing the diaries of Hannah Senesh, a World War II national heroine in Israel and a reputed poet. Mina became fascinated with the People of Israel, and began studying Judaism online and learning Hebrew through music forums and music rooms, downloading the lyrics of Israeli songs and practicing them in private or with like-minded friends. In those times the internet was less censored than it is today, but even then such activities, especially by Muslim citizens, were not done openly. This is in spite of the fact that the Iranian regime has repeatedly claimed that it is not against Jews and Judaism, but against Israel and Zionism.
In order to deepen her knowledge of Judaism and Israel, Mina eventually left Iran. While sojourning in some countries of the Former Soviet Union, she visited synagogues and studied the Torah and various religious texts, such as Kitzur Shulchan Aruch. She now belongs to the Noahides, non-Jewish believers in the Torah. Although she is widely read (she is a fan of Israeli authors David Grossman and Amos Oz), in her current place of residence, she is unable to acquire the texts she craves, and relies on the internet for her study, music downloads, and contacts.
It should be stated that Mina has not rejected Islam. In an attempt to resolve the apparent conflict between her Islamism and Judaism, she tries to highlight aspects that the religions have in common. In Shi'ite prayers, she says, much is taken from Jewish sources, “Lamentations” being a significant example. Called Nodbeh, Shi’ites read this prayer every Friday morning and on the birthday of their Hidden Imam, who was born more than a thousand years ago. So, like the Jews, some Shi'ites believe in an absent savior/messiah who will return to fill the world with goodness and justice. In addition, some Shi’ite verses replicate the ones recited on the Jewish Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. As to her own personal identity conflict, Mina compares it to living between two nations, or between parents who are divorced or estranged.
Mina’s letters to me are peppered with Jewish religious blessings and Hebrew expressions, such as makom yoter boer − a brighter place, from the song She'erirot shel ha’haim, “Remains of Life,” by the internationally acclaimed Israeli singer Idan Raichel. She believes in getting to know the other “through an unbiased pair of glasses, to appreciate and be appreciated, and to learn that misdeeds do not just belong to the other; we share our misdeeds, they are our qualities as human beings, and if we don’t like them, we need to help one another control them…”
Naïve? Perhaps, but maybe with a few more Minas around there would be fewer confrontations in the world and more attempts to make peace, or at least to coexist, with the Other.