History of the Jews in Pakistan
|Part of a series on|
|Jews and Judaism|
Jews were a small religious group in Pakistan. Various estimates suggest that there were about 1,000 Jews living in Karachi at the beginning of the twentieth century. A smaller community of Jews also lived in Peshawar. Jewish communities in Pakistan included the Baghdadi Jews, Bukharan Jews, Mizrahi Jews, from Central Asia, neighbouring Iran and Afghanistan respectively. The Bene Israel Jews of India were concentrated in Karachi.
According to the 1881 census, there were 153 Jews in Sindh province. By 1919, this figure had risen to about 650. By 1947 there were about 1,500 Jews living in Sindh with the majority residing in Karachi. Most of these Jews were Bene Israel and they lived as tradesmen, artisans, poets, philosophers and civil servants. Some Baghdadi Jews, Sephardi Jews, Mizrahi Jews and Bukharan Jews could also be found.
A variety of associations existed to serve the Jewish community in Pakistan including:
Built in 1893, by Shalome Solomon Umerdekar and his son Gershone Solomon. Other accounts suggest that it was built by Solomon David, a surveyor for the Karachi Municipal Committee and his wife Sheeoolabai. The synagogue soon became the center of a small but vibrant Jewish community. A member of this Synagogue, Abraham Reuben, became a councilor in the Karachi City Corporation in 1936.
- Young Man's Jewish Association
Founded in 1903 and whose aim was to encourage sports as well as religious and social activities of the Bene Israel in Karachi.
- Karachi Bene Israel Relief Fund
Established to support poor Jews in Karachi.
- Karachi Jewish Syndicate
Formed in 1918 and whose aim was to provide homes to poor Jews at reasonable rents.
At the time of the Partition of India and Pakistani independence, some 1300 Jews remained in Karachi, most of them Bene Israel Jews observing Sephardic Jewish rites. The first real exodus of Jewish refugees from Pakistan to Bombay and other cities in India came just prior to the creation of Israel in 1948. By 1953, fewer than 500 Jews were reported to be in all of Pakistan.
||This article needs additional citations for verification. (October 2011)|
Magen Shalome, the Bene Israel's only synagogue, was demolished in 1988 to make way for a shopping plaza by order of General Zia-ul-Haq shortly after the Bene Israel community in Israel petitioned for its maintenance and use as a historical or other community center.
Most of the Karachi Jews now live in Ramla, Israel, Mumbai, India and Toronto, Canada and built a synagogue they named Magen Shalome after the Pakistani Synagogue in Ramla. Developments in the Middle East peace process such as the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza strip led to the first high level meeting between Israeli and Pakistani foreign ministers. The foreign ministers of both countries met publicly for the first time in Istanbul, a diplomatic breakthrough brokered by Turkey.
Rachel Joseph, the last Bene Israel Jew of Pakistan, left Karachi for Israel. There are no Bene Israel Jews remaining in Pakistan.
Dan Kiesel, a Jew of German origin, was employed as a physiotherapist by the Pakistan Cricket Board from 1995-990. His appointment brought some controversy; Pakistani politicians questioned the hiring an Israeli Jew in the Senate of Pakistan.
The term "Yehudi" and its variants remains a word of serious derision when directed at a Bene Israel or anyone else as noted by Reverend Wilson, one of the founders of Bombay University. The Bene Israel may be the only strand of Judaism whose prayers include intercessions on behalf of Her Majesty and have flourished in several Commonwealth countries and Israel.
Historic records show that the Jewish community in British India were enthusiastic supporters of Israel and Zionism that, in its broadest sense, calls for the self-determination of the Jewish people and a sovereign, Jewish national homeland.
One of the leaders of the Jewish community, Abraham Reuben, who was elected the first Jewish councillor on the city corporation in 1919, wrote to acting Belgian Consul in Bombay and Head of Zionists in Bombay (Mr Israel Cohen, the secretary of the World Zionist Organization in 1921, described him as unofficial head of Zionists in Bombay). Reuben expressed, on behalf of Bene Israel community of 650 people living in Karachi, entire sympathy with Zionist movement. The community would decide on forming a branch association of Universal Zionist Organization when it had more information, and he therefore requested more details about the movement, suggesting that he might also meet Zionist representatives when he was in London the following May.
Reuben wrote at his letter head, president of the All India Israelite League. Later, Karachi Community of Jews appointed Reuben to proceed to the Holy Land to report on the practical possibilities of Zionism.
In May 1936 Abraham Reuben, vice president of the Karachi Jewish community, has inquired whether Bene Israel were permitted to settle in Eretz Israel.... Joseph Sargon reassured him that there were no restrictions on Bene Israel immigration.
Israel Goldstein a rabbi, author, Zionist leader and one of the founders of Brandeis University, highlighted the absence of the rule of law as the reason for the Jewish Community of Karachi's exodus to Bombay, India as refugees in his book My world as a Jew (p. 20–21) in following words,
- A dozen years of independence had failed to instill more than lip service to the ideals of democracy. Corruption was still rife.... Grim poverty was widespread and visible in the shantytowns and hovels occupied by the indigenous population and by hordes of Muslim refugees from India. Pakistan's refugee problem was then certainly the largest in the world, as a result of the 1947 partition, which had taken place against a welter of indiscriminate butchery.... American support for Israel also aroused indignation in this overwhelmingly Muslim country.
- From Burma, we flew on to Karachi (in 1959).... We received a warm welcome from the local Jewish community. On the evening after our arrival in Karachi, some 250 of the 400 souls whom it comprised, including young people and school children, assembled in Magain Shalome Synagogue, which had been erected in 1893. The meeting was followed by a reception in an adjoining hall, where the president of the congregation extended greetings. We were happy to learn that many of the young people were going to Israel, by way of India, in order to train in hakhsharot for agricultural settlement there. A remarkable high spirit was maintained by the community, which had a great asset in the Israeli shaliah, who taught Hebrew to adults and children alike.
He continued his narration regarding the concerns for the future of Jews in Pakistan,
- Their cantor led the singing of Israeli songs, and the evening concluded with Hatikvah. I was impressed by the fact that Hatikvah, the Zionist and Israeli national anthem was sung with the windows the hall wide open—despite the unfriendly Muslim environment." However, as cited by Mr. Goldstein: "the leaders of the Bene Israel community had no confidence in the future. They could not forget how, following the proclamation of Israel's establishment in 1948, local agitators had led a riotious mob into the synagogue, where the Holy Ark and Torah scrolls were desecrated and acts of vandalism took place."
Many Jewish refugees promptly left for India, whence they proceeded to Israel and other countries. Numerous news accounts also cite violent acts of antisemitism committed by Muslims against Jews in Karachi and other cities in Pakistan during the partition period.
The Jewish community of Karachi were definitely forced to leave Karachi as refugees because of increasing antisemitism especially by Muslim religious leaders across Pakistan and muhajirs arriving from India. To help and care for the Olim (Migrant to Israel), the Jewish agency maintained offices in Bombay, India where such Jewish refugees first arrived from Karachi.
The original Ark and podium were stored by a non-Jew in Karachi; a Torah scroll case was taken by an American Jewess to the U.S. In 2004 she donated synagogue registers covering the period 1961–1976 to the Ben-Zvi Institute Library in Jerusalem. Two silver Kiddush cups from Magain Shalome were donated to the Museum of the International Synagogue at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York in honour of the memory of the late president.
Jewish Graveyard in Karachi
Jewish Life in Pakistan
Antisemitism in Pakistan
Antisemitism is rife in Pakistan today. The public rejection of Zionism increased after the creation of State of Israel and the consequent Arab Israeli Wars. Antisemitism is very common among Pakistani Muslims but anti-Zionism evolved after the creation of the State of Israel. Jewish residents of Karachi were attacked by mohajir Muslims at the creation of the State of Israel. David Ben-Gurion's statement in The Jewish Chronicle about Pakistan increased the hostility for the Pakistanis.
Byram Dinshawji Avari says they were prominent members of the community at Karachi. One Jew used to be pilot at Karachi Port Trust. Most bureaucrats left in the 1940s, the cabaret artists in the 70s. The Roma Shabana nightclub that once stood on Frere road also boasted two Jewish cabaret dancers, who later faded into obscurity. Ardeshir Cowasjee also agrees that some Jews still remain in Karachi. The remaining Jews hide their real identity and show Muslims as they are Christians or Parsis and wear shalwar kameez.
Recognition of Israel and Peace Process
Israeli politicians and Pakistani Jews in Israel spoke for the Pakistani recognition of Israel and peaceful relations between two countries. Some Pakistani leaders like Pervez Musharraf and human rights activists like Asma Jehangir also spoke on this issue.
Some of the notable Jews who lived in Pakistan, are:
- David Solmon—member of Karachi Municipal Corporation who built a synagogue in Karachi
- Abraham Reuben, Councillor of Karachi in 1919
- Dan Kiesel, an Israeli-German cricket personality who lived in Lahore while working for the Pakistan Cricket Board
- Daniel Pearl, an American Jew who was killed in Karachi.
- Yoel Reuben, Pakistani Jew living in Israel.
- W. W. Hunter, The Imperial Gazetteer of India, vol XII, Trubner and Co, London, 2nd edition, 1887. Online at: http://www.panhwar.net/rarebooks/The%20Imperial%20Gazetteer%20of%20India%20Vol%20XII%201887.pdf
- Joan G. Roland, The Jewish Communities of India: Identity in a Colonial EraPg 149 Limited Preview : http://books.google.com/books?pg=PA149&lpg=PA149&dq=jews+karachi&sig=YzcQuJHDc7pllJ9pKs_lcxe2c_w&id=kHJccZ92IecC&ots=UATw6OEEDF&output=html
- Israel Goldstein, My World As a Jew: The Memoirs of Israel Goldstein, Herzl Press, New York, USA, vol 2, Pg 21 Limited preview: http://books.google.com/books?id=mCU0XsXUDOYC&pg=PA21&lpg=PA21&ots=Rf8WikzBrB&dq=jews+karachi&output=html&sig=5giViHwkF4nloob2TatlYnh0k6k
- The Jewish communities of India: identity in a colonial era By Dr. Joan G. Roland
- "Jewish Graveyard in Karachi Pakistan". Youtube. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
- "In search of the Jews of Karachi". Express Tribune. 6 February 2011. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
- "In search of the Jews of Karachi". Express Tribune. 6 February 2011. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
- "Anti-Zionism, in Pakistan". ETN Zurich. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
- Express Tribune. 6 February 2011 http://tribune.com.pk/story/113103/in-search-of-the-jews-of-karachi/
|url=missing title (help). Retrieved 13 November 2011.
- "Israel Today". Israel Today. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
- "Recognition of Israel". Express Tribune. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
||This article needs additional citations for verification. (June 2008)|