By now, the whole world knows the name and face of Joshua Fattal, the 29-year-old Elkins Park native who spent 26 months in an Iranian prison before being reunited with his family last week in Oman and arriving back on U.S. soil on Sunday.
But one aspect of the story that has largely gone unreported is the fact that Fattal is Jewish.
Josh's father, Jacob Fattal, was born in Iraq and moved to Israel before ultimately settling in the United States. Josh Fattal became a Bar Mitzvah at Rodeph Shalom's suburban campus. He traveled to Israel several times, the last time just before meeting up with his friends in Syria and going on to Iraqi Kurdistan, where they crossed the border to Iran and were arrested.
It's no accident that the Jewish side of the story has largely been kept under wraps, according to family friend Brian Gralnick and others familiar with the situation.
And it doesn't take much imagination to guess the reasons why: The Iranian government is virulently anti-Israel and has a history of charging Jews with spying for Israel.
While it stands to reason that Fattal's captors knew his religion or learned it during interrogations, his family did not want to take any chances and risk having information get out into the public sphere that could endanger their son even further.
And, since the families of the three captives worked so closely together, forming a united front, the idea was to keep the focus on three American citizens who were wrongly imprisoned, rather than single out one because of his Jewishness.
So, despite the fact that Laura Fattal appear frequently in the media as she and the other families waged a public campaign for their children's release, she and other family members declined to be interviewed by the Jewish Exponent. The family also rejected offers of several Jewish organizations to intervene.
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