Pakistan is home to several religious minorities, notably the Hindus, Sikhs and Christians. It is also home to a tiny 200 member Jewish community which is scattered all over the country. This is their story.
Pakistan’s small Jewish community gained attention when a Pakistani Jew, Fishel Benkhald, was reportedly allowed to undertake a “religious journey” to Israel, a country the Pakistani government does not recognise due to its illegal occupation of Palestinian land. This community is also known as the Lost Tribe by many.
According to Jewish lore, the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel refer to the ten tribes that formed the Kingdom of Judah which then vanished from Biblical accounts after the Kingdom was destroyed by the Assyrians around 723 BC. While this is not necessarily where the name is derived from for the community, it provides insight into what the the phrase Lost Tribe holds in the Jewish community.
There are more Jewish tribes than one might think in Pakistan, if you get time later, check this journal out. For now, though, story time.
“I am stuck in a real life conundrum. Being a practicing Jewish man, I want the freedom to perform my religious duties, a right granted to me and other minorities in the country by the constitution,” he wrote. Fishel continued, the reality is that my Pakistani passport states that ‘this passport is valid for all countries of the world, except Israel’.
“As per the constitution, every citizen has the right to practice their religion, including religious pilgrimages. How then, can the state be justified in prohibiting not only Jews, but Pakistani Christians, Messianic Jews, and even Muslims from travelling to Jerusalem? This self-conflicting sentence on our passports is flawed and inconsistent with our constitution, and it is time to challenge this archaic law,” Fishel gave us a good reminder.
Then, finally the Pakistan Tehreek-e-insaf Government granted him his wish.
Most of the local Jews left reside in Islamabad, Karachi and Lahore.
According to the official Bureau of Statistics, there were around 12 Jewish government employees in Pakistan in 2003, but the 2006 census of civil servants didn’t show even a single Jewish employee, suggesting they either left the service or well, changed their faith.
It looks like a dream almost too good to be true. Imagine, we are talking about a Jewish individual in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan fighting for his identity and then trying to go to Israel, a country Pakistan doesn’t even recognise! But let’s imagine the government lets him go for a one time only super historic deal and offer pilgrimage. This is the stuff Netflix binge worthy docu-series are made of. But you know what, stranger things have happened. So keep hustlin’ Fishel.
This is a picture of a synagogue in Karachi in 1957. It was built 54 years before Pakistan’s creation, in 1883. The board reads ‘Pakistani Israelite Mosque’ in Urdu, Bengali and Hebrew. According to some sources, the last Jewish family of Karachi is said to have migrated (to Israel) around 1968. This synagogue lasted as a heritage building till 1988 when it was torn down and a shopping plaza was made in its place.
I don’t know if Fishel’s dreams will trump government policy and change history, or if followers of the Torah will ever set foot in the land of the pure. I don’t know. I do know though, that the Jewish people who called Pakistan home were good people and we probably lost them forever.
It’s too little, too late but I’ll say it anyway, farewell lost ones.
Read more from ProperGaanda: Yes, be cautious, but also chill bro!
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