Today I was speaking with a business associate who mentioned that his father was born and raised in Hamadan, Iran also known as Shush or Shushan HaBira–the setting for the Purim drama. Hamadan is located between Teheran and Iran’s western border with Iraq. He mentioned that his father is very proud of his birthplace–Hamadan literally means “place of knowledge” and its inhabitants were generally regarded as very intelligent. Interestingly, Hamadan was the first Iranian province to allow Jews to own property. He also mentioned that Esther and Mordechai are the most popular names for Jews born in Hamadan and he himself has numerous relatives bearing these names.
The ancient wooden tombs of Esther and Mordechai still lay, side by side, today in Hamadan under a simple brick dome. One tomb, draped in shimmering cloths, is labelled “Esther” in English and Hebrew. The other, draped in vibrant colors, reads “Mordechai” in English and Hebrew.