In a surprising gesture, Iran's new president, Hassan Rouhani, on Wednesday sent his well wishes to Jews in Iran and around the world for Rosh Hashanah — the Jewish New Year that began at sundown.
“As the sun is about to set here in Tehran I wish all Jews, especially Iranian Jews, a blessed Rosh Hashanah,” he tweeted.
The message was sent from his English-language Twitter account. It didn't appear on his Farsi Twitter page.
It is thought that about 25,000 Jews remain in Iran.
— Hassan Rouhani (@HassanRouhani) September 4, 2013
Reactions on Twitter were swift and mixed.
Israel gov is going to be studying Rouhani's Rosh Hashana greetings. But who can deny this is not a v different Iranian president @meirja
— Laura Rozen (@lrozen) September 4, 2013
Iran's President: Happy Rosh Hashanah: Well, that seems encouraging. Rouhani was elected in May by a landslide... http://t.co/XSToNF5Odp
— JoeMyGod (@JoeMyGod) September 4, 2013
Its not "great" that Rouhani tweeted Rosh Hashana greetings. His govt calls for genocide against the Jewish state and denies the holocaust
— Independent Patriot (@LibertysSpirit) September 4, 2013
.@HassanRouhani Happy New Year to you. Now, could you ask your Supreme Leader to stop calling for the elimination of the Jewish state?
— Jeffrey Goldberg (@JeffreyGoldberg) September 4, 2013
Rosh Hashana tweet from Iran’s new prez analyzed, dissected with Talmudic intensity. What does it mean? http://t.co/mo7nv6sO6c
— Joel Siegel (@joelmsiegel) September 4, 2013
Rouhani is considered a "moderate" by most Western countries, though Israel has warned that he is a wolf in sheep's clothing.
The Iranian president will visit New York later this month to address the United Nations' General Assembly.
Rouhani's predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, often used the forum to rail against Israel and the United States.
The US and its European allies have been negotiating with Iran for the better part of a decade to halt its nuclear enrichment program. Rouhani has expressed interest in renewing the talks, but has said that enrichment would not end entirely.