American hostages BBC documentary Hirshel Jaffe humanitarian visit Inspiring Iran Hostages Iranian hostage crisis Rabbi Hirshel Jaffe

My Special Eleven Day Mission to See the Iran Hostages

The BBC interviewed me for a Documentary Special about my visit to the 52 hostages held captive in Iran and launched after 444 days in January 1981, when President Reagan invited me to greet the liberated People in a White House Ceremony. Under is my blog about my 11 days in Teheran.

This can be a A Call From The Hostage Takers airs Saturday June 15 and Sunday June 16th. Click right here for extra info.

From the BBC: “40 years ago, the Iranian hostage crisis gripped the world, with details unfolding nightly on television. But one story remains untold. Desperate to get their message out, the hostage takers invited 50 ordinary Americans to visit Iran. For the Americans, this high-risk trip held the tantalising possibility of securing the release of hostages. What transpired was a journey quite unlike any of them had planned. Using archive of the visit and fresh interviews with former Iranian hostage takers in Iran and their American visitors, we hear about their hopes and misgivings at the time and their reflections 40 years on.”

Division of Protection
Freed American hostages disembark from a aircraft at Andrews Air Pressure Base in Maryland on Jan. 27, 1981, one week after being released.

The yr was 1979, and like each different American I used to be gripped by the hostage disaster. 52 of our guys have been captured and blindfolded earlier than the TV cameras when armed Iranian militants, followers of the Ayatollah Khomeini, scaled the walls of our U.S. Embassy in Teheran. Members of the Revolutionary Guard managed to seize the attention of the complete world on that infamous November 4th.

I heard the media point out a professor from Kansas who was arranging a humanitarian go to. I made a decision to call him and I stated: “Professor, you don’t know me, and you realize there are four Jewish hostages.” I should have embarrassed him, because he answered defensively, “Thinking about it Rabbi, you’re right!” Then, unexpectedly, he added, “OK, Rabbi,  stick around.”

I assumed that may be the finish of it, but two weeks later I received a telephone name: “Was I interested in a special eleven day mission to see the hostages?”

It was February fifth, and we have been on a aircraft to Teheran, praying to see the hostages and the day they might be let loose. We landed on a bleak chilly day at Mehabad Airport and entered an enormous terminal whose partitions had been stripped bare and plastered with footage of the Ayatollah Khomeni.

We have been instantly surrounded by the Revolutionary Guard brandishing machine weapons. I received plenty of stares sporting a yarmulke on my head. After some tense moments we have been driven to a dilapidated lodge in downtown Teheran with sand luggage round the pool and machine gun posts. The militants had renamed it “Hotel of the Glorious Revolution.”

The subsequent afternoon we have been taken to a mosque to meet with an Imam. He harangued us in a shrill voice that Israel was a device of America and the Zionists who exploited his Muslim brothers and sisters.

I might hardly include myself. I stared at the bearded Imam and blurted out, “If you call yourselves Compassionate Sons of Allah, then why don’t you treat my people with compassion?” One among the American ministers touched my shoulder and whispered, ” Hirshel, you will need to really feel very lonely right here as a Jew.” I don’t know what stirred inside me, however I answered him, “No, I’m not alone. I am accompanied by the souls of my people who have been oppressed throughout history.”

It was February 11th and we have been being pushed on a bus to an enormous anti-American demonstration outdoors of Teheran College. The revolutionaries had renamed it “Freedom Square .” As we snaked our means by means of the demonstrators they shook their fists at us and pounded violently on our bus, yelling, “Down with America. Death to President Carter.” We have been virtually trampled as we struggled to climb the rungs of a rickety platform rapidly erected for us the overseas guests.

The rain was pelting us and the agitated crowd pressed towards our platform. All of the sudden there was a shudder and the stands began to buckle and collapsed. There were screams and moans of people being crushed beneath us. As the scaffolding came crashing down I jumped instinctively about ten ft to the ground. Luckily I wasn’t harm however two of my companions have been injured in the melee. Someone shouted over the commotion, “Rabbi, get out of here!”

After wandering by means of the streets of Teheran for hours I finally found our lodge and was overjoyed to be reunited with the different People who feared one thing ominous may need happened to me.

Three days later, on February 14th at 5 AM, there was a sudden knock on our door. It was certainly one of the militants saying, “You clergy people wait here, because soon we’re going to take you to visit the poor souls who were injured when the stands collapsed at the parade.” I had a gut feeling. Turning to Father Jack, my roommate, I stated, “You know Jack, that’s just a ruse, They’re taking us to see the hostages.”

There was a priest with us who was appearing unusually. He over-identified with the militants and purchased their line that the hostages have been by some means guilty of one thing. There, in the back of the van, I confronted him and requested: “Does it not say in your New Testament -Judge not lest you be judged?”

We got here to a screeching halt in front of the towering walls of the American Embassy. There have been the armed militants with machine guns perched on the partitions excessive above. They appeared like they have been 11 years previous . We have been led to a room with blankets masking the windows and the ever present footage of Khomeini.

After an anxious wait the militants led in some of the American hostages. We decided to make small speak with them about life again house to ease their fears. So we chatted informally about basketball scores and McDonalds. I used to be close to tears considering, my God, when will they ever go free?”

The guards have been going to permit us to take letters the hostages had written to their family members again in the States. I used to be sitting proper up entrance and one in every of the hostages handed me a sheaf of letters, I clutched the letters and gave a ultimate embrace to the hostages, whispering, “The American people are praying for you and you are not forgotten.”

I managed to hand one in every of the captives a Hebrew prayerbook to give to the Jewish hostages who have been stored back in their cells. Ten months later, in the White House, the Jewish hostages revealed to me that the militants had deceived them about my being there. They informed me the prayerbook lifted their morale and gave them hope and the will to survive.

As we have been getting ready to depart the militants abruptly and unexpectedly barred our method and detained us. They stated accusingly: “You clergy people can’t leave. We have seen one of you receive a secret message from one of the hostages.” They have been pointing immediately at me. I assumed, my God, did they plant something on me? Am I going to be made a hostage too? I made a decision to robust it out and name their bluff. So I rose to my ft and stated indignantly, “I am here on a humanitarian visit and will not be treated this way!”

Despite my protest they separated me from my fellow clergy and led me into a courtyard out of view. I was made to strip down to my shorts they usually searched me and all my belongings completely. It was fortunate I had crossed out the names of the Israeli Secret Service who briefed me in New York earlier than I left, because they went via every identify in my tackle e-book. I used to be positive they have been itching to hold me hostage as a Zionist spy. As they have been main me back to rejoin the other People I couldn’t resist tipping up my yarmulke, as if to say: ”You forgot to look underneath here boys!”

Sadly, our People stayed there for four hundred and forty four days. Once they have been liberated, President Reagan despatched his aircraft for them. Amazingly, they landed first at Stewart Airport in Newburgh. A couple of days later the President invited me to go to the White House reception to greet the hostages earlier than the nation.

There, in the White Home, the Marine band was enjoying. I used to be sporting a silver bracelet for certainly one of the hostages. He was a courageous American and he was isolated and crushed by the militants, but he by no means complained. He stated, “Rabbi, others had it worse than me.” His mom had given me the bracelet to put on for her son whereas he was imprisoned. It stated very starkly “William J. Dougherty, (taken prisoner) November 4th 1979”. Bill was watching the bracelet on my wrist. I stated, “Bill, would you like to come to Newburgh? We’ll have a ceremony and I’ll present the bracelet to you.” He answered “ Rabbi, if you don’t mind, I’d like to have the bracelet now!”

I’m taking a look at the letter Invoice wrote me after that time at the White House. It’s on the wall of my research in the Temple and it reads. “Rabbi, thank you for all your efforts and for the love shown to us by 250 million Americans while we were held hostage. As far as the bracelet, when you took it from your wrist and put it on mine, the pain began to go away.”

A number of years after the ordeal I officiated at the wedding ceremony of the son of considered one of the Jewish hostages. As his father rejoiced I considered the biblical verse: “Those who sow in tears, shall reap in joy.”

* Originally revealed on runningrabbi.wordpress.com.


Rabbi Hirshel Jaffe, a cancer survivor, is a motivational/inspirational speaker on the theme NEVER GIVE UP! He authored “Why Me? Why Anyone?” which chronicles his rescue from leukemia and his religious conquer despair. Often known as “The Running Rabbi” for competing in the NY Marathon, he acquired the “Award of Courage” from President Ronald Reagan in a White House ceremony. Rabbi Jaffe was one among the clergy who visited the American hostages in Iran to supply them consolation and hope and was requested by the President to greet them at the White House upon their return. He acquired an honorary Doctorate from his seminary for “his work with the sick, and his noble influence upon all individuals. You possibly can comply with him on Facebook.

Featured image courtesy of CNN.