History of the Jews in Pakistan

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The history of Jews (Urdu: یہودیوں) in Pakistan dates at least as far back as 1839.[1][2] Various estimates suggest that there were about 1,000 Jews living in Karachi at the beginning of the twentieth century, mostly Bene Israel Jews from Maharashtra, India.[3] A substantial community lived in Rawalpindi.[1] A smaller community of Jews also lived in Peshawar. The Bene Israel Jews of were concentrated in Karachi.[4]

Today, the majority of Pakistani Jews live in Israel, while modern-day Pakistan continues to host a modest Jewish population. According to the National Database and Registration Authority, there are 745 registered Jewish families in Pakistan.[5]

History[edit]

Middle ages[edit]

A community of Jews fleeing persecution in Mashhad, Persia, settled in Rawalpindi in the Punjab in 1839. The elaborate early 20th century synagogue they built still stands on Nishtar Street in Rawalpindi's Babu Mohallah neighborhood, between the Bohra Mosque and a large and elaborate Victorian era church.[1]

Colonial era (1842-1947)[edit]

According to the 1881 census, there were 153 Jews in Sindh province.[6] In the Sindh Gazetteer of 1907,[7] Edward Hamilton Aitken mentions that according to the 1901 census, the total population of Jews [in Sindh] was 482 and almost all of them lived in Karachi.[8] By 1919, this figure had risen to about 650.[9] 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.[10]

In 1911, Jews constituted 0.3 percent of Karachi’s population and at the time of independence from the British Empire their number had reached 2,500.[11] In her 1947 book ‘Malika-e-Mashriq’ (Queen of the East), Mehmooda Rizwiya has written about the Jewish presence in Karachi.[8] Jews used to live in Karachi.[12][13] In a paper titled "Karachi Ke Yahudi” (Karachi's Jews), Gul Hasan Kalmatti indicates that Jews arrived in Karachi from Maharashtra in the 19th century.[14][15]

A variety of associations existed to serve the Jewish community in Pakistan, including:

Built in 1893 near Ranchore Line,[16] 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 rent fees.

Post-independence[edit]

1947-1970[edit]

Leading up to the time of the Partition of India,[17] some 1300 Jews remained in Karachi, most of them Bene Israel Jews observing Sephardic Jewish rites.[18] The first real exodus of Jewish refugees from British India to Bombay and other cities in India came just prior to the creation of Israel in 1948 when Jew hatred spread to Pakistan.[19] When Israel came into being in 1948, many Jews migrated to Israel, and after the Arab-Israel war a majority of them left Karachi.[20] By 1953, fewer than 500 Jews were reported to be in all of Pakistan.[21]

1971–present[edit]

Magain Shalome, the Bene Israel's only synagogue in Karachi founded under the British Raj, 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.[22] By another account, in July 1988 the synagogue was burnt and brought down by religious zealots (where today a building 'Madiha Square' stands).[23]

Dan Kiesel, a Jew of German origin, was employed as a physiotherapist by the Pakistan Cricket Board from 1995-1999. His appointment brought some controversy, as Pakistani politicians questioned the hiring an Israeli Jew in the Senate of Pakistan.[24]

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 John Wilson, one of the founders of University of Bombay (now University of Mumbai). The Bene Israel's prayers include intercessions on behalf of Her Majesty as in several Commonwealth countries.[25] The Jewish Chronicle of London reported on Karachi’s Jews as recently as 2007.[26]

In general elections 2013, it was reported that 809 adult Jews were enrolled as voters. The number of Jewish women voters was 427 against 382 men in the community.[27] By 2017, according to the Election Commission of Pakistan around 900 Jews were registered as voters in the country.[28]

Rachel Joseph, the last known Bene Israel Jew of Pakistan died and is buried in Karachi.[29][30][31]

Most of the Karachi Jews now live in Ramla, Israel, Mumbai, India and Toronto, Ontario, Canada and built a synagogue they named Magen Shalome after the Pakistani Synagogue in Ramla. Developments in the Middle East peace process 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.

Prominent people[edit]

  • Solomon David Omerdekar, Magane Shalom Synagogue Founder (Karachi), Land Surveyor
  • Abraham Reuben Kamerlekar, City Councillor (Karachi)
  • Jean Francis Miriam Jhirad, Historian, Gladstone Memorial Prize recipient
  • Dr. Eliezer Bhorupkar, Surgeon (Karachi)
  • Moses Somake, Architect
  • Esther Gershone, Teacher
  • Aaron Sassoon Benjamin Kandlekar, Chief Mechanical Engineer (Karachi Port Trust), Fellow RINA
  • Yoel Moses Reuben, Author and Researcher "The Jews of Pakistan: A Forgotten Heritage"
  • Daniel Abraham Satamkar, Shipping Agent, Philanthropist
  • Colonel George E. Benjamin, Engineer (Indian Colonel and British Army Major)
  • Dan Kiesel, physiotherapist for the Pakistan Cricket Team.
  • Rachel Joseph, Custodian

Lifestyle[edit]

Bene Israel maintain Sephardic Jewish rites as modified by several cross-cultural celebrations based on their current locations in the world.

Antisemitism[edit]

Many purport to speak about the state of antisemitism in Pakistan today and in her past. Antisemitism is in decline in Pakistan today.[32] The massive demographic influx of Mohajirs from the Dominion of India upon independence and the creation of Israel and the consequent Arab–Israeli conflict worsened Jew-hatred as witnessed by the 1948 Muslim occupation and eventual destruction of Karachi's Magane Shalom synagogue. Before the 1970s, generally there were no anti-Semitic feelings towards the Jews of Pakistan.[33]

Mewa Shah Graveyard[edit]

The Jewish Bene Israel Graveyard remains in the larger Mewa Shah Graveyard in Karachi.[34][35]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Tahir, Saif (23 February 2016). "The lost Jewish history of Rawalpindi". Express Tribune. Retrieved 25 February 2016. 
  2. ^ Weil, Shalva. 2010 'Pakistan'; in Norman A. Stillman (ed.) Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World, Leiden:Brill.
  3. ^ Weil, Shalva. 'The Jews of Pakistan', in M.Avrum Erlich (ed.) Encyclopaedia of the Jewish Diaspora, Santa Barbara, USA: ABC CLIO. 2008, (3: 1228-1230).
  4. ^ Weil, Shalva. "Jews of India" in Raphael Patai and Haya Bar Itzhak (eds.) Jewish Folklore and Traditions: A Multicultural Encyclopedia, ABC-CLIO, Inc. 2013, (1: 255-258).
  5. ^ Hussain, Danish (27 March 2017). "Man of interfaith parents wins right to religion of choice". The Express Tribune. Retrieved 27 March 2017. 
  6. ^ 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
  7. ^ Aitken, Edward Hamilton. Gazetteer Of The Province Of Sindh (1907 ed.). Karachi. Retrieved 8 January 2017. 
  8. ^ a b Balouch, Akhtar (Sep 16, 2015). "Karachi's 'Yahoodi Masjid'". Dawn newspaper. Retrieved 26 December 2016. 
  9. ^ Joan G. Roland, The Jewish Communities of India: Identity in a Colonial EraPg 149 Limited Preview : https://books.google.com/books?pg=PA149&lpg=PA149&dq=jews+karachi&sig=YzcQuJHDc7pllJ9pKs_lcxe2c_w&id=kHJccZ92IecC&ots=UATw6OEEDF&output=html
  10. ^ Weil, Shalva. 2009 'The Heritage and Legacy of Indian Jews' in Shalva Weil (ed.) India’s Jewish Heritage: Ritual, Art and Life-Cycle, Mumbai: Marg Publications [first published in 2002; 3rd edn.], pp. 8-21. Weil, Shalva. 2011 'Bene Israel', in Adele Berlin (Ed. in Chief) Oxford Dictionary of Jewish Religion, 2nd edition, New York: Oxford University Press, 131. Weil, Shalva. 2011 'Bene Israel' (616), in Judith Baskin (ed.) Cambridge Dictionary of Judaism and Jewish Culture, New York: Cambridge University Press.
  11. ^ Salman, Peerzada (Nov 3, 2013). "Role of Jews in Karachi’s uplift highlighted". Dawn newspaper. Retrieved 17 January 2017. 
  12. ^ Weil, Shalva. 2011 "The History and Disappearance of the Jewish Presence in Pakistan", International Relations and Security Network (ISN). http://www.isn.ethz.ch/isn/Current-Affairs/ISN-Insights/Detail?lng=en&id=130985&contextid734=130985&contextid735=130984&tabid=130984&dynrel=4888caa0-b3db-1461-98b9-e20e7b9c13d4,0c54e3b3-1e9c-be1e-2c24-a6a8c7060233
  13. ^ "کراچی والے حصّہ "1"". وی او اے. Retrieved 8 March 2016. 
  14. ^ Salman, Peerzada (Nov 3, 2013). "Role of Jews in Karachi’s uplift highlighted". Dawn newspaper. Retrieved 17 January 2017. 
  15. ^ Ghosh, Palash (November 16, 2013). "Karachi Yahudi: Pakistan’s Vanishing (Or Vanished) Jewish Community". International Business Times. Retrieved 26 January 2017. 
  16. ^ Israel Goldstein, My World As a Jew: The Memoirs of Israel Goldstein, Herzl Press, New York, USA, vol 2, Pg 21 Limited preview: https://books.google.com/books?id=mCU0XsXUDOYC&pg=PA21&lpg=PA21&ots=Rf8WikzBrB&dq=jews+karachi&output=html&sig=5giViHwkF4nloob2TatlYnh0k6k
  17. ^ Weil, Shalva. 2012= “The Unknown Jews of Bangladesh: Fragments of an Elusive Community”, Asian Jewish Life, 8:16-18. http://asianjewishlife.org/pages/articles/AJL_Issue_10_Sept2012/AJL_Feature_Unknown-Jews-Bangladesh.html
  18. ^ Weil, Shalva. 2009 'Bene Israel Rites and Routines' in Shalva Weil (ed.) India’s Jewish Heritage: Ritual, Art and Life-Cycle, Mumbai: Marg Publications [first published in 2002; 3Arts, 54(2): 26-37.rd edn.], 78-89. Reprinted in Marg: A Magazine of The
  19. ^ Weil, Shalva. 'The Jews of Pakistan', in M.Avrum Erlich (ed.) Encyclopaedia of the Jewish Diaspora, Santa Barbara, USA: ABC CLIO.2008, (3: 1228-1230).
  20. ^ Salman, Peerzada (Nov 3, 2013). "Role of Jews in Karachi’s uplift highlighted". Dawn newspaper. Retrieved 17 January 2017. When in 1948 Israel came into being a lot of Jews migrated to Israel, and after the Arab-Israel war a majority of them left the city. 
  21. ^ bataween. "Point of No Return: Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries". Retrieved 8 March 2016. 
  22. ^ Weil, Shalva. 2011 "The History and Disappearance of the Jewish Presence in Pakistan", International Relations and Security Network (ISN). http://www.isn.ethz.ch/isn/Current-Affairs/ISN-Insights/Detail?lng=en&id=130985&contextid734=130985&contextid735=130984&tabid=130984&dynrel=4888caa0-b3db-1461-98b9-e20e7b9c13d4,0c54e3b3-1e9c-be1e-2c24-a6a8c7060233
  23. ^ Salman, Peerzada (Nov 3, 2013). "Role of Jews in Karachi’s uplift highlighted". Dawn newspaper. Retrieved 17 January 2017. 
  24. ^ Weil, Shalva. 2011 "The History and Disappearance of the Jewish Presence in Pakistan", International Relations and Security Network (ISN). http://www.isn.ethz.ch/isn/Current-Affairs/ISN-Insights/Detail?lng=en&id=130985&contextid734=130985&contextid735=130984&tabid=130984&dynrel=4888caa0-b3db-1461-98b9-e20e7b9c13d4,0c54e3b3-1e9c-be1e-2c24-a6a8c7060233
  25. ^ Weil, Shalva. 1994 'The Secular & Religious Elite among the Bene Israel Jews in India', Pe’amim 60: 49-63. (Hebrew)
  26. ^ Ghosh, Palash (Nov 16, 2013). "Karachi Yahudi: Pakistan’s Vanishing (Or Vanished) Jewish Community". International Business Times. Retrieved 8 January 2017. 
  27. ^ The Newspaper's Staff Reporter. "Minorities’ votes may decide fate of 96 constituencies". Retrieved 8 March 2016. 
  28. ^ A. Khan, Iftikhar (Jan 8, 2017). "Minorities’ vote bank reaches close to 3m". Dawn newspaper. Retrieved 8 January 2017. 
  29. ^ "No more in Karachi". Dawn newspaper. January 27, 2016. Retrieved 26 January 2017. 
  30. ^ Sahoutara, Naeem (March 18, 2014). "Jewish trust goes to court to take back demolished Karachi synagogue land". Express Tribune. Retrieved 8 January 2017. 
  31. ^ Khurshid, Jamal (October 26, 2015). "Jewish trust given time to review nazir’s report on property status". The News International. Retrieved 8 January 2017. 
  32. ^ "Anti-Semitism in Pakistan—hate on a sliding scale". The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles. Tribe Media Corp. Dec 11, 2008. Retrieved 17 January 2017. 
  33. ^ Hashmi, Zeeba T (Nov 12, 2015). "The Jews of Pakistan". Daily Times (Pakistan). Retrieved 17 January 2017. 
  34. ^ "Jewish Graveyard in Karachi Pakistan". Youtube. Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  35. ^ "In search of the Jews of Karachi". Express Tribune. 6 February 2011. Retrieved 13 November 2011. 

Sources[edit]

Above material is based on an article of Prof. Adil Najam of Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, published in Pakistan's newspaper The Daily Times. 1

External links[edit]