Israel-Iran relations: 1953-1979

A look back through the archives of the National Photo Collection at the high point of normalcy in Israel-Iran relations.

Last night’s agreement reached between Iran and the group of 6 world powers (the P5+1) has not been well-received in Israel, to say the least.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opened today’s cabinet meeting with the statement, “What was achieved last night in Geneva is not an historic agreement; it is an historic mistake.”

President Shimon Peres took a slightly less blunt tact with a special appeal to the Iranian people to, “Reject terrorism. Stop the nuclear program. Stop the development of long-range missiles”,  but also stressed that, “The international community will not tolerate a nuclear Iran. And if the diplomatic path fails, the nuclear option will be prevented by other means. The alternative is far worse.”

The high point of normalcy in Israel-Iran relations began in 1953 when a coup d’état brought the pro-Western Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi to power and ended with the 1979 Revolution and the rise of Ayatollah Homeni.

Israel’s National Photo Collection contains images of those days when diplomatic visits and cultural exchanges were ongoing, Israeli singers frequented Iranian nightclubs, and wrestling matches and chess competitions were the battlefields. But those are days long gone by.

23 April 1950  [Iranian] Minister Saffinia arriving at the home of President Haim Weizmann in Rehovot on Israel Independence Day.

Photo by David Eldan

August 1963 (L-R): Dr. A. Shapiro of Kol Israel Radio, S. Ladzckdo, Ghana; H. Malek, Iran; Mr. & Mrs. Ben-Yosef, Kol-Israel, at a reception of the International Conference on East and West Music, Jerusalem, Israel.

Photo by Moshe Pridan

October 10, 1976. Participants in the World Chess Olympiad held at Haifa’s “Dan Carmel” Hotel. in the photo, the team from the U.S. playing against the team from Iran.

Photo by Ya’acov Sa’ar

April 10, 1963. An exhibit featuring books from Iran at the International Book Fair in Jerusalem’s “Binyanei Hauma” (today the ICC Jerusalem).

Photo by Moshe Pridan

August 23, 1965. A wrestling match between an Israeli and an Iranian opponent during the 7th Maccabiah Games, Israel.   

Photo by Moshe Pridan

August 14, 1960. Israeli Minister of Education, Abba Eban welcomes the Iranian delegates to the Conference on Science in the Advancement of New States, Rehovot, Israel.    

Photo by Fritz Cohen

About Rachel Neiman

A veteran media professional who has lived in Israel since 1984, Rachel has been part of the ISRAEL21c organization since 2008. Prior to that, she served as managing editor of Globes Online, the English-language edition of Israel’s leading business daily, and before that, at The Jerusalem Post, as a business reporter, feature writer, and consumer columnist. Rachel began writing about Israeli technology companies at LINK Israel’s Business and Technology Magazine and is a professional Hebrew to English translator. In her spare time, she is an active member of the Havurat Tel Aviv congregation, and the Holyland Hash House Harriers, part of an international running and drinking disorganization.