The Jews of Pakistan

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Point of No Return, which mainly focuses on Jews from Arab lands, has some interesting posts on Pakistan. Here are some links and extracts.

Our culture is lost, says Pakistani Jew’s descendant

Karachi synagogue in the 1970s

The history and plight of Pakistan’s vanished Jews has elicited much interest on this blog, especially from Pakistani Muslims.Point of No Return was therefore excited to hear from Yifa Yaacov, the great grand-daughter of a Karachi Jew called Rachael. But we were also sad to learn from Yifa that their specific culture has been lost to Jews like herself. Yifa invites comments from interested readers:

“I am the great-granddaughter of a Karachi Jew named Rachael. Her father was a jailer in Karachi. She moved to Mumbai and Gujarat and died in Ahmedabad in 1973. My great-grandfather, a Maharashtran Jew, died in Israel. I visited her grave this past summer. It touched me deeply and I started to learn Urdu (maybe I will get to Marathi someday). I only wish I could visit Rachaelbai’s birthplace in Karachi. What kind of a world is it where a great-granddaugher cannot see the birthplace of the great-grandmother after whom she is named. […]

Karachi’s Jewish cemetery in dire need of repair

There are nearly 5,000 graves at the Bani Israel cemetery in Karachi, Pakistan. (photo: Huma Imtiaz/The Express Tribune)
The Pakistani journalist Mahim Maher always wanted to be Jewish– not a popular thing to be in today’s Pakistan. The few Jews have all disappeared, or claim to be Christians. The 5,000-grave cemetery in Karachi is in desperate need of repair, she writes in her Jewish Journal blog:

In the heart of Karachi, amidst the sounds of traffic and the ever-present smog, one can hear shouts of bus conductors calling out “Tower, Tower!” The object of their affection is the 19th century Merewether Tower on II Chundrigar Road, dwarfed now by tall buildings in the city’s busy financial area, but still unique due to its design. In the middle of the tower is an engraved Star of David, set in stone. Some upholder of religion has thoughtfully spray painted Yahoodi (Jew) on the tower, perhaps to mark it for demolition in the future.[…]

Pakistan’s problem with the Jews

A Jewish family in Karachi (Photo: Dawn)

Tufail Ahmad traces the development of antisemitism in another Muslim country without Jews – Pakistan. Hateful ideological sloganeering by Pakistan’s leaders makes little distinction between Jews and Israel’s policies, Ahmad writes. Via Memri (with thanks: Lily)

Historical records indicate that Jews, with no connection to the Pashtuns, have lived in Pakistan and the wider South Asian region over the past several centuries. A 2007 report in the Pakistani dailyDawn noted: “The earliest graves… [of Jews in Karachi] are from 1812 and 1814, with a vast majority from the 1950s.”[2] The report also cited Aitken’s Gazetteer of the Province of Sind, a British-era government document which was published from Karachi in 1907, as recording that “there were only 428 Jews enumerated in the census of 1901, and these were really all in Karachi. Many belonged to the Bene Israel community who observed Sephardic Jewish rites and are believed to have settled in India [which included Pakistan] shortly after the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus [the Roman Emperor in 69 AD].”[3][…]

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