Friday, August 17, 2007

Last Pakistani Jew sues over Karachi synagogue

As India and Pakistan celebrate 60 years since partition, Patrick Belton in The Jewish Chronicle spotlights the last Jews - or should it be Jew? - of Karachi.

" As Pakistan marks its sixtieth birthday, 200 Jews still live secretly in Karachi, all that remains of a community numbering 2,500 at independence.

"In this fervently Muslim country, most pass as Parsees. As one member of a Karachi Jewish family observes of his brethren: “They like to keep quiet.”

"All except one. A destitute and frail woman of 88, Rachel Joseph is the sole surviving custodian of the community’s synagogue, even though it was destroyed almost 20 years ago. Magain Shalome once stood at the corner of Jamila Street and Nishtar Road. It was demolished in July 1988 by order of President Zia ul-Haq, to make way for a shopping plaza. Ms Joseph is suing the property developers who built it, saying they promised her space for another synagogue, and a flat to live in while she tended it. Meanwhile, she looks after the community’s graveyard, in the Mewa Shah neighbourhood. The shul was built in 1893 by Bene Israel from Maharashtra, who came to work in the civil service, on the railroads and pressing coconut oil, joined by Baghdadi Jews from Bombay.

"Quetta, Lahore and Peshawar also had communities, but Karachi’s importance as a Jewish centre was such that the All-India Israelite League convened there in 1918.

"But with Partition came pogroms, and Israeli independence in May 1948 saw the Karachi synagogue set on fire. Prime Minister Zulfikar Bhutto, Benazir Bhutto’s father, declared: “To Jews as Zionists, intoxicated with their militarism and reeking with technological arrogance, we refuse to be hospitable.”

“My grandfather went from door to door, from Jew to Jew, to tell them that they had to leave the town,” recounts Rachel Khafi, an American whose grandfather Benjamin Khafi organised the departure of Jews from Peshawar.

"The numbers in Karachi halved during the Suez Crisis and again with the Six-Day War, though communal life would continue throughout the 1970s. Over 630 Karachi families now live in Ramla, Lod and Beersheba. Older members still speak Urdu or Marathi. “They are not the most integrated of all communities in Israel,” notes the Hebrew University’s Dr Shalva Weil, an expert on Jews of the subcontinent.

"At first they faced discrimination; before 1964 and the recognition of Bene Israel as legitimately Jewish, they also faced difficulty in marrying. Meanwhile in Pakistan, Rachel Joseph, the last openly Jewish member of an extinguishing community, awaits her day in court."

Read article in full

Reprinted in The Daily Times (Pakistan)

11 comments:

naushad said...

BRAVE WOMAN ! I would like to know more about the Jewish Graveyard in Karachi and also the Jews buried elsewhere in Karachi. I am sure there must be many still living who have some knowledge about this. I remember having visited the synagogue in Ramswami as a child. It could only have been destroyed by a bigot like Zia-ul-Haq. I don't know if the case is still pending - it's been years.

solomon1 said...

There are more Jews in Pakistan then you think. We just like to keep anonymous. I am a Pakistani Muslim Jew living (as a student) in Islamabad Pakistan.

bataween said...

Solomon,
I'm intrigued how you can be a Muslim Jew and would love to know more! Would you email me?
bataween@gmail.com

Ali said...

i dont want to give a negative impression of pakistan so i just want to clarify the quote by Prime Minister Bhutto...the first part of it states that, "To Jews as Jews, we bear no malice.."

Anonymous said...

Shalom,

There are Jewish people still living in Pakistan and fighting for official recognition and respect.

The Karachi Synagogue is now a symbol of Jewish people in Pakistan, and by the will of G-d will soon be restored.

The 15 small groups which form the Jewish COmmunity of Pakistan and Kashmir still have few syagogues here.

In time the Jewish people will be able to live freely and practice freely in this country.

Regards.

ismail said...

VIVA LA MAGAIN SHALOME
i am a pakistani muslim,
and i beleive that jewish people are moral, good and hard-working people
and if the pakistani muslims open their eyes and see these excellent qualities which make the jewish people good humans they will be able to progress as one united nation

if the pakistani's act up again and be anti-semitic i swear by the name of g-d and by the blood that flows through my veins that i will fight alongside my jewish brothers, (IF it is because the pakistanis are acting up)and i shall fight till my last breath.


jews and muslims are pretty much the same we both arabs and hebrews are actually cuzens remember isaac and ismail ?
yep BROTHERS!!!


VIVA LA ISRAEL!!! VIVA LA PAKISTAN !!! VIVA LA MAGAIN SHALOME !

bataween said...

Dear Ismail
Very gratified to read your words. However, I don't think you can now turn the clock back - most Pakistani Jews have been living outside Pakistan for over 40 years and there is no community to speak of.
To attract them back Pakistan would have to abandon its anti-Israel, anti-Jewish discourse.

MUJEEB AHMED said...

ALHAMADULILLAH I AM MUSLIM AND PAKISTANI I APPERICIATE THE ACTION OF PRESIDENT ZIA TO DEMOLISHED THE SYNAGOGUE IN KARACHI.
I AM AND ALL THE MUSLIMS OF PAKISTAN NOT IN FAVOURE OF THE JEWS TO LIVE IN PAKISTAN WE MUST KICK TO THEM TO GET OUT FROM PAKISTAN.

bataween said...

In that case we should have no sympathy for any Pakistanis kicked out of Britain.

Saved_01 said...

Hi Solomon1 ! I am a Pastor in Punjab and right now researching on "Jews of Pakistan" that i shall be able to bring out a book.
Would you please contac :
kgmpak@gmail.com

sheensol said...

Hi Solomon,
I am a descendant of the Famous Solomon family from Pakistan, we left much before you were born but I carry vivid memories.
I would like to learn more about you & your family.
Please contact me at:
sheen10@hotmail.com