Home inContext A New Start for the New Year

A New Start for the New Year

Samara Greenberg

Josh Fattal, one of the American hikers released from Iran last week after two years in prison, is Jewish and the son of an Israeli man, according to reports out Monday. Born in Iraq, Jacob Fattal — Josh’s father — moved to Israel shortly after the new country’s birth and served in the army before immigrating to the United States. Jacob’s brother and two sisters remained, and currently live in Israel. The younger Fattal is believed to have visited the country numerous times, even once before the trip that ended with his imprisonment in Iran’s notorious Evin prison.

Fattal’s identity was kept secret out of fear of the Iranian regime’s response and making an already bad situation worse. Local Jewish papers aware of Fattal’s identity refrained from reporting on the story and his father stayed out of the limelight while his mother and brother talked to the media in an effort to hide the elder Fattal’s nationality.

Josh Fattal (R) with Shane Bauer after their release from Iran.

According to the younger Fattal, who spent two years in solitary confinement and was granted little connection to the outside world, he was unaware that he would be freed when prison guards led him and fellow hiker Shane Bauer to a room to get fingerprinted and pick up their clothes. They then met with Salem al-Ismaily, the envoy of Oman’s Sultan Qaboos bin Said. As Fattal recalls, al-Ismaily greeted the two by saying: “Let’s go home.”

Speaking after his son’s release, Jacob Fattal told reporters, “We’re very happy; it’s the greatest gift we could have dreamed of receiving for Rosh Hashanah.”