Yesterday, three days before of the biblical holiday of Purim, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in Moscow. It was a day trip that began early Thursday, 10 March.
In his official greeting, Russian President Vladimir offered Netanyahu "a warm welcome to Moscow."
"You often come to Russian right on the eve of holidays," he noted. "I want to take the opportunity to congratulate you on the upcoming Purim holiday and wish everyone in Israel happy holidays and prosperity."
Purim is an international Jewish, and Israeli, holiday established during the reign of Persian king Xerxes I who governed from 486-465 BCE. According to the biblical book of Esther, a powerful administrator in Xerxes' administration persuaded the sovereign to sign a genocidal law aimed at annihilating Jews throughout the empire.
When Esther, Xerxes' Queen, exposed that Haman's intent would also mean her own death, Xerxes executed Haman. Unable to rescind the law he had signed, he signed another one, authorizing Jews and their allies to defend themselves. In the end, Haman's plot to destroy the Jewish people resulted in the just the opposite. Defeating their foes throughout the empire, they achieved honor and prosperity.
When Netanyahu responded, he thanked Putin for the holiday sentiment.
Thank you for your congratulations on the upcoming Purim holiday. In ancient Persia, an attempt was made to destroy the Jewish people 2,500 years ago, and it failed. This is what this holiday celebrates. Today, ancient Persia’s successor, Iran, continues attempts to destroy the Jewish state. They speak of this openly and write this in black and white in their newspapers.
Today, we have our own country and our army, and we can defend ourselves. But I want to say that the threat of Shia Islamic terror is directed not only against us, but against the region and the entire world. I am sure that we seek to prevent the threat of all radical Islamic terror, no matter whether it is Shia or Sunni.
None of the official transcripts include what Putin said next. But, cameras running and mics hot, his words were not missed by those who were there.
The Russian international news network, RT (formerly, Russia Today) reported Putin's rebuttal.
Raising an idea finger, he told Netanyahu that the events recorded in Esther took place "in the fifth century BC."
Putin is not unaware that Jews use the acronym BCE, Before the Common Era, instead of BC, Before Christ.
"We now live in a different world," Russia's president added. "Let's talk about that now."
Few media outlets have reported the rebuke. Iran's PressTV is among those who did. Putin remarks about Purim, it said, were "part of a legend going 'back to the fifth century BC" [italics added].
The mullahs who govern the Islamic State of Iran are not inclined to recognize the historical validity of the ancient Persian empire. In late September 2016, only six months ago, organizers of a march celebrating an unofficial Cyrus the Great Day were arrested. Among the thousands that showed up for the event, some reportedly chanted, "Iran is our country, Cyrus is our father."
Cyrus the Great, like his grandson Xerxes I, is well known to students of the Bible. Called an "anointed one," or messiah, by the prophet Isaiah, Cyrus authorized the legal return of Jews to the land of Israel after 70 years of captivity. His decree, verified by the Cyrus Cylinder, is an irrefutable historical fact. It is, however, a fact that today's Persian empire calls a "legend."
Meanwhile, like Haman, today's Persian empire continues its open commitment to Israel's destruction, and does so with Russia's military and technological enablement.