Noruz, the Iranian New Year! Even hearing the sound of the words gives me a warm feeling that spring is finally coming. Here in Denver, Colorado in the United States, the winter snow has just begun to melt, it is cold outside and morning temperatures still dip below 0 Celsius.
Last week with the frost on the rooftops and the ground covered with ice and snow, the scene outdoors looked more like it could be the week before Yalda Night rather than a few weeks before Noruz. Nevertheless, I told myself, it is time to start growing Sabzeh, the beautiful green sprouts of wheat or lentils to decorate the Sofreh-ye Haft Seen, the special Noruz table.
Likewise, the time has come for me to recall all the special symbolic items, each one beginning with the Persian letter Seen, necessary for our Sofreh. Let me see; in addition to sprouts (sabzeh), I need apples (sib), wheat sprout pudding (samanu), garlic (sir), vinegar (serkeh), sumac (sumaq), and Lotus tree fruit (senjed), but that’s hard to find here so maybe I’ll use coins (sekkeh) instead. Also I have to buy a hyacinth (sonbol) at the florist and some eggs to color, an orange to place in a bowl of water, a bottle of rose water, and clean the house, and…
Wait a minute, Yuram, you say. OK, fine, you converted to Islam over 10 years ago, and you adopted the Shia mazhab, but, you’re not from Iran, so why are you doing all these preparations for Noruz? An excellent question; let me try to explain. How did I arrive at this point? Indeed, Allah works in mysterious ways.
There are two main reasons. First, my introduction to Islam came from someone who studied in Qom and whose family hails from Iran, Dr. Ibrahim Kazerooni. I spent many wonderful Saturday afternoons with him at his home learning about Islam, Iran and the Middle East while enjoying chai Irani (Iranian tea). Second, my disgust over Washington’s post 9/11 Middle East policies pushed me to become an activist.
When the rhetoric against Iran ramped up after the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, I began sending letters of protest to newspapers here in the U.S., but no one was interested in publishing my views. So much for the vaunted First Amendment, I thought to myself. By 2006, my letters had expanded into full-blown op-eds, and still no takers, so I expanded my scope and sent some articles to a few English language news sites in the Middle East, among them the Tehran Times.
Then one day, I received an email from Hamid Golpira of the Tehran Times, with a link to an article I had submitted earlier entitled “Unbalanced U.S. Policy on Palestine”. That was in June of 2006, and after two more years of writing articles, Hamid asked me if I could also do a little editing to which I responded, “hatman!”(sure!). Today, over 8 years and 120 articles later, I’m still writing and editing for the Tehran Times.
Every morning, 6 days a week, I receive an email with news files in English for editing from Mr. Mousavi, with whom I try to communicate exclusively in Persian, so this is like having a personal daily lesson in Farsi live from Tehran! And after editing, by my rough calculation, some 10,000 of his news articles, I can honestly say that his English is far better than my Persian. Nevertheless, I still keep trying and learning.
In 2012, my wife, Batyah, and I had the privilege of visiting Iran and we both fell in love with the country and the people. After we stopped in at the Tehran Times, we went on to Mashhad to visit the Shrine of Imam Reza (AS) and then to Shiraz, Isfahan and Qom. We both hope someday to return, and, if the Foreign Ministry accepts us as resident aliens, to reside in Iran.
So you see, it’s only natural that I celebrate Noruz, and if I’m counting correctly, this is our tenth year of sharing this most beautiful Iranian way of welcoming spring and the New Year. Next year, Noruz in Iran, insha’Allah.