The synagogue in Karachi, Pakistan
The amazing story of a Jewish woman who smuggled Jews of out Pakistan in the 1970s has just began to emerge, this blog can reveal (Point of No Return exclusive!):
The Jewish wife of the Australian Consul-General posted to Pakistan helped smuggle out members of the tiny Jewish community in the 1970s.
Leaving a comment on Point of No Return a Pakistani Jewish man recalled that his widowed sister and niece were smuggled out in the trunk of a car belonging to the Australian diplomat's wife following the Indo-Pakistani war. The border was then closed to all except diplomats.
"My sister told me how she had the centre rear armrest taken out and had a vacuum cleaner hose fitted from the air-conditioning unit to the trunk. We don't think that her husband knew what she did. We believe she may have smuggled other Jews in the same way," the Pakistani Jew writes. The sister and niece now live in New York.
The Jew says that he left Pakistan this year. "For decades we masqueraded as Muslims," he writes.
According to her son, the Australian diplomat's wife provided the small Karachi community - numbering perhaps 1 - 200 Jews - with their needs, including Kosher wine and grape juice. When her husband was not with her she would travel to the synagogue in the diplomatic Mercedes-Benz with the licence plates covered and no Australian flag flying on the bonnet.
She got in touch with the Jews of Karachi via the Chief of Police, a Christian. "Within a week, he came back with addresses," her son remembers. None of the Urdu-speaking community were well-off.
Although other Jews were rarely present, her son recalls attending formal diplomatic dinners on Friday nights wearing a kippa. "Nobody took any notice of it," he told Point of No Return.
Forty years on his mother, now an elderly widow, still insists on anonymity and secrecy about her activities.
" She asked us never to contact her or speak of how we got out in case her husband lost his employment. But this is now 40 years ago and he will have long retired," the Pakistani Jew writes.
The diplomat's wife brought home to Australia for safekeeping the Teba and Ark from the synagogue in Karachi. She also rescued a Torah and candlesticks from a synagogue on the borders of Afghanistan, and bought a beautiful lapis lazuli inlaid Menorah in the bazaar of a village in the tribal area at the base of the Khyber Pass road.
It is not known how many Jews still live in Pakistan, but it is thought that several high-profile business people claiming to be Parsees or Muslims are in fact Jews. One contacted Point of No Return, saying his (or her) family living in the UAE masqueraded as Parsee. "We are terrified here and in Pakistan to say we are Jewish," he (or she) wrote.
In the days of the British empire, the Jewish community in what is now Pakistan numbered several thousand. All but a few have fled for Israel and the West.
Surprise! there are still Jews in Pakistan