Iranians and Evangelicals Supporting Israel

Crowds of Iranian Farsi speakers and evangelical Christians gathered together with Israelis at a museum in Jerusalem. They had come for the unveiling of a huge artwork by Iranian artist, Hooman Khalili, created as his way of supporting Israel. Perhaps the capital of Israel might seem an unlikely location for an Iranian artist to exhibit, but these are unusual days, and Israel is finding it has some unexpected allies in its time of deepest need.

Two Persian heroines

Thousands of pictures of the fallen, both Iranian and Israeli, have been crafted together to made up the huge artwork. The message of the mural is encouraging women to rise up like Esther, for such a time as this. It features the faces two Persian women of valor: Shirel Hair Pour was an Israeli soldier of Iranian Jewish descent, and Mahsa Amini an Iranian freedom fighter. Their stories are both tragic and inspiring in equal measure. Staff Sgt. Shirel was just twenty years old when she was killed by Hamas on October 7. She had finished her duty in the IDF and was free to go home, but chose to go back and fight for her country. Mahsa had a few strands of hair flowing free from her hijab and was beaten to death on the streets of Iran. Both are now pictured radiant and lifted high in the center of Jerusalem, as examples of heroism in the face of evil. And who is there to stand with the mourning family of Shirel? Iranians, Israelis, and evangelical Christians. Hooman Khalili stood before the crowd, addressing the grieving family:

Hooman Khalili's art is his way of supporting Israel

“Barak, at your sister’s funeral, you said you wanted all Israel to know about Shirel’s bravery, but now let’s make her bravery known not only in Israel but in the whole world… Shirel chose to go and fight Hamas. She was a true female warrior. In Shirel you see a Persian woman who was courageous, fearless, she knew her duty, and she did it.”

After explaining a bit about the backstory of both Shirel and Mahsa, Hooman pointed to their example, exhorting all women to follow their lead:

“Esthers of the world rise up! Shirel is a modern day Esther. My hope is for the women of Iran and the women of the Middle East to look at Shirel as a fearless woman who stood up to terror.”

Her boyfriend said that Shirel had often warned that a surprise attack from the enemy was likely. She went voluntarily to the war room to help send out warnings, and even though the terrorists set it on fire to force them out, Shirel remained inside, refusing to leave. Her brother said that he would make sure the whole country knew about her bravery:

“You fought until your last drop of blood in this war, and that’s the biggest sense of pride you can give your parents, your family and the nation…  On that black day, you chose to fight and carry out your mission instead of hide. You chose to help, and because of you and your work, the world gained many pure souls, but lost a pure soul that was like no other.”1

Art as a means of supporting Israel

The unveiling took place at the Museum of Tolerance on Hillel Street, and is the eighth such mural Hooman has created under the banner of Israeli/Iranian resistance against radical Islam. Each mural carries the same battle cry: “Woman, Life, Freedom”. The enterprise became possible after Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem, Fleur Hassan, began to organize protests in support of the Iranian women who were rising up to fight for their freedom. Emily Shreider alerted her to Hooman’s work and the partnership took off. Fleur Hassan told him,

“The mission of these murals is clear: I want the world to know that the Jews are standing with the freedom fighting women of Iran”.

Hooman Khalili's art is his way of supporting Israel

Khalili asked how many murals in support of Iranian women could be found in other countries in the Middle East. The answer, of course, is none.

“Israel is the only country in the Middle East standing with the women of Iran… These murals inspire the women of Iran to keep fighting.” He added, “Thank you to Israel. You’re in the midst of a war, and still you chose to stand alongside the freedom-fighting women of Iran. Let’s believe in our lifetimes that Iran will be free.”

Similarly, Iranian people are surprisingly supportive of Israel in this conflict, since they understand well what the Hamas terror organization is all about. The head of the snake, as anyone can tell you, is in Tehran. Yet Hooman quoted another Iranian believer who said 95% of the Persians in Iran actually stand with Israel.

“I want to remind you that Persians have been friends of the Jews for three thousand years, and have been enemies for less than fifty… God wants Iran and Israel to be friends, to be brothers again.”

After expressing the desire that this historic friendship between the two countries should be reestablished, and pointed to the two Bible verses that appear on the mural.

When that time comes, Jerusalem will be called ‘The Throne of the Lord,’ and all nations will gather there to worship me. They will no longer do what their stubborn and evil hearts tell them. (Jeremiah 3:17)

And I will set my throne in Elam and destroy their king and officials, declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 49:38)

He said that the 2500 faces in the mural remind us of these two key locations, Jerusalem and Elam (modern day Iran) and the mention of God’s throne being in those two places. He pointed out that the whole book of Esther takes place in Elam, and that both Esther and Daniel are buried there. He also referenced the name of God in Exodus 17, Jehovah Nissi, when Moses said God was his banner:

And Moses built an altar and called the name of it, The Lord Is My Banner, saying, “A hand upon the throne of the Lord! The Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.” (Exodus 17:15-16)

This name appears in a very appropriate context, speaking of Israel’s war with the people of Amalek who cut down the young and infirm lagging behind as Israel left Egypt. Murdering, terrorizing, and raping women as a manner of warfare is very much in the same spirit. It’s evil that must be challenged and fought. But Khalili is coming at this fight under the banner of God, and is not fighting with ordinary weapons. At the end of Zechariah 1, we read about craftsmen putting powers to flight in God’s design. This artist is a born again believer and was not afraid to nail his colors to the mast. He concluded urging us all in this way:

This banner is meant to give God glory, to remind women to rise up… When you look at this banner, don’t think about me, think about God: His goodness, His mercy, His forgiveness, His love for you and for Israel.

Iranian and Christian support for Israel officially recognized

The faith present in the room was not lost on the deputy mayor either. After recent attacks by aggressively anti-Christian mobs at prayer and worship gatherings over the summer, she stood up for believers, telling those angered by Christian presence in the land that evangelical Christians were some of Israel’s best friends. She was not wrong, as is becoming increasingly obvious. In her speech, Fleur Hassan reiterated solidarity with the women of Iran who are being killed in the street simply for being women who believed in their freedom. She talked about the snowballing movement which began in localized protests in support of Iranian women with a simple message: When women are being killed in the streets, every freedom loving nation has to rise up and say enough is enough! When the protests spread to Tel Aviv, Emily Shreider found Hooman Khalili on Instagram who had seen the support and was looking to do murals in Israel. It just so happened that one of Fleur Hassan’s portfolios was a responsibility for art in public spaces, so when she was connected with Hooman’s vision the partnership took off, and now Israel’s Foreign Ministry is also involved. The deputy mayor drew some important conclusions from everything that has happened:

Jerusalem's deputy mayor, Fleur Hasson, thanked Iranians and evangelical Christians for supporting Israel“Little did I know when a year ago when I organized the first ever demonstration for the women of Iran that a year later we would be here talking about the massacre on our people and the way or women in this country have been used as weapons of war. So not only do we have in common with the Iranian people that we want freedom, but we have in common the same cruel enemy that uses women as a weapon of war. If we didn’t have something in common before, now we have even more in common and I’m very proud to say that just like we, Jews and Israel, stood with the women of Iran, so the Iranians all around the world are standing with the Jewish people today, and they’re one of the few people that are standing with us today.

The other people that are standing with us is the Evangelical Christian community, so thank you, thank you.

And so this doesn’t just represent the bond of women, the fight against violence against women, it also represents our gratitude to the Iranian people and to the evangelical Christians for standing with Israel in our hour of need.

I want to say something unique about the bravery of women in this war. Shirel could have just hidden, she could have run away, she could have stood somewhere, but she chose to stay and fight, that is the spirit of the Jewish woman warrior. And Masa could have just covered her hair, and said ok, but instead she refused to bow down. This is bravery in front of cruelty, so I salute our women. There are no words, no words.”

She told the family of Shirel that we would make sure her name was honored we promise we will an example of the women who were sacrificed on that terrible day. Shirel’s sacrifice was not in vain.

Khalili hopes that their stories be embraced by the world and an inspiration to millions of Middle Eastern women. This is no time to hide. Whether you’re in the Middle East, on the streets of Tehran, Tel Aviv, or somewhere in Texas or Tennessee, the world needs brave women to take their place and stand against evil. The event took place with the darkest night of the year approaching, but after that longest of nights the brightness starts to increase. As Isaiah says,

Arise, shine, for your light has come,
    and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
For behold, darkness shall cover the earth,
    and thick darkness the peoples;
but the Lord will arise upon you,
    and his glory will be seen upon you.
And nations shall come to your light,
    and kings to the brightness of your rising.
(Isaiah 60:1-3)

Hooman left us with this exhortation:

“To the women here—the Jews, the Arabs the Christians—I say: Esthers of the world, rise up!”

Hooman said this is one of the best ways to fight anti semitism and a way of supporting Israel


Picture of Fleur Hassan by Gilabrand – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

1. Times of Israel, Staff Sgt. Shirel Haim Pour, 20: Refused to leave war room till the end, 19 November 2023

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