In a surprising development out of Iran, President Hassan Rouhani has reportedly given $400,000 to Tehran’s only Jewish hospital, the New York Times reports. The donation was dropped off at the Dr. Sapir Hospital and Charity Center by Rouhani’s brother, Hossein Fereydoon, who came with a message: “Our government intends to unite all ethnic groups and religions, so we decided to assist you.”
The hospital was overjoyed, with a nurse telling the Times, “This is a good sign.”
It’s definitely something. I don’t mean to look a gift horse in the mouth, but the unexpected donation, which appears to have been given with little warning or context, raises a few questions. Is this part of Rouhani’s skillful charm offensive—a generous gesture of goodwill to a religious minority could potentially go a long way in softening the country’s image in the eyes of the West—or a genuine attempt at cultural change within the country?
The whole thing feels a bit too random, and haphazard, to be part of a wider initiative, though at the very least the donation means the hospital and the communities it serves will benefit tremendously.
Stephanie Butnick is deputy editor of Tablet Magazine and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.