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Monday, July 20, 2009

The defunct settlement

Jewish graveyard located at Mewashah district of Liyari,Karachi.

Since time immemorial the different parts of the world have experienced the colonization, as well as exoduses of Jewish. The evidences from different periods of history highlights, that the dominion which did not safeguard the privileges, prerogative and rights of Jewish, and which did not allow them to thrive, or where all the odds went against Jewish philanthropic settlement in particular country,they migrated to a safer territory for the sanctity of their rights and emotional well-being. So, did the Pakistani region of South Asia was an abode to a strong Jewish community. A census took place in the year 1881 which accentuated that there were 153 Jews in the province of Sindh. An official archive of the British government published from Karachi in 1907 known as ''Aitken Gazetteer'' delineated that there were 428 Jews in Karachi enumerated in 1901s census.However, other sources claim that at the inception of twentieth century 2,500 Jews were residing in Pakistan.When the year 1919 dawned their number aggrandized to 650. A smaller group also resided at Peshawar, haplessly, the current population is not known. The Jewish community prosper because they are given a hand by their contemporary Jewish at the time of distress and pain.Thus, there was a creation of gamut of organizations designed to serve the Pakistani Jewish communities, details of these organizations are as follows:

  • Magain Salome Synagogue:

This sacred place of worship for Jewish was constructed in 1893 by Shalom Solomon Umerdekar and his son Gershome Solomon.Solomon David, a surveyor of Karachi Municipal Committee ; his wife's name was Sheeoobai, her husband built Magain Shalom Synagogue at his own expense; accounts another source.The gravestone of Solomon David reads:''A widely known and respected Solomon David always sought the welfare of the Jewish community and through his liberty erected at his own expense a handsome synagogue, Magain Shalom''. It soon became the center of a small but vivacious Jewish community. A member of this Synagogue,Abraham Reuben, became a councilor in Karachi City Corporation.

  • Young Man's Jewish Association:

It was founded in 1903, its aim was to encourage sports, as well as religious and social activities of the Bani Israel in Karachi.

  • Karachi Bani Israel Relief Fund:

It was initialized to take up the cudgels for poor Jews in Karachi.

  • Karachi Jewish Syndicate:

Karachi Jewish Syndicate was formed in 1918 and its aim was to provide homes to the poor Jews at reasonable rents.

The post-1947 period reflects that there were 2,500 Jews concentrated in Sindh,particularly in Karachi.These were the Jewish of Bani Israel, Baghdadi, Sephardic, Mizrahi, and of Bukharan descent. It was also promulgated from a different source that some 2,000 Jews remained in Pakistan at the time of independence, most of them were Bani Israeli Jews observing Sephardic Jewish rites. Recent media findings are of opinion that there may still be a small Jewish community residing in Peshawar.
In the Second Summit Conference Zulfiqar Bhutto asserted,

''To the Jews as Jews we bear no malice;to the Jews as Zionists,
  intoxicated with their militarism and reeking with technological
  arrogance,we refuse to be hospitable''.

 Probably as a repercussion Magain Shalom Synagogue was pulverized in the 1980s to make way for shopping plaza.When the Jewish usurped Palestinian land, and transformed it into Israel---the Karachite Jewish became a site of anti-Israel demonstrations.The first real evacuation from Pakistan came soon after the creation of Israel in 1948.It may be quite interesting to know that in Ramla,Israel many of the Karachite(Urdu speaking) Jewish dwell, where they constructed a Synagogue, they named after Magain Shalom Synagogue of Karachi. Some Jewish even migrated to India,where there Jewish culture can flourish, and where they enjoy religious liberty.
In 2008, a resident of Karachi reminisced,

''Jewish were innocuous people,used to palm off from
 political activities,when the Arab-Israel war sprang
 up in the late sixties,they were made aloof.
 Thus, they started migrating silently''.

Although I have never been confronted with any of the member having the Jewish ancestry, I tried to carry out expedition for the Jews in the city of Karachi, but had to renounce when I became aware of the fact that the fear of anti-semitism prevented Jews from evincing their religious identity some of them have camouflaged themselves as Parsis, who have a right to exist as free individuals in Pakistan. The demand made in Middle East peace process focused at maintaining peace between the Muslims and the disgruntled faction(Jewish) was ''the withdrawal of Israel from the Gaza Strip'',howsoever,it led to the first high level meeting between Pakistani and Israeli foreign ministers. They publicly met first time in Istanbul, a diplomatic breakthrough brokered by Turkey.There are 15 independent communities in Pakistan. Efforts are being made to unite them into larger Jewish communities of Pakistan and Kashmir. Demands are restoration of Jewish synagogues, right to exist as free individuals, religious freedom, right to vote and have a separate representation in the assembly. The change in the government,their policies and the uniformity of antagonism and pugnacity in Pakistan are usually the digressions.

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