Jewish cemetery in Karachi needs protecting

This remarkable article by Reema Abbasi in the online Pakistani newspaper Dawn makes a heartfelt plea for an NGO to take up the cause of the preservation of the Jewish cemetery in Karachi. The article asserts that 2,000 Jews stayed on in Pakistan in 1947, but there are only 10 Jewish families today. (With thanks: Farook)

“The fierce keepers of the graveyard refuse to let anyone in as they fear that excessive exposure will rob them of their home. However, when caught off-guard the family had some interesting information. “A lot of people used to come in the ‘50s, wearing black suits, hats and with beards. There were quite a few Jews here but after General Ayub many left for London,” says the old lady who lives there with her family.

“A few come here even now but they are in Sindhi-Muslim, Khoja or Memon families. They married Muslims or went undercover as Parsis because they fear for their lives. There are about 10 Jewish families in all, scattered in areas like Ramaswamy, Soldier Bazaar, Ranchore Line,” she continued.

“According to Aitken’s Gazetteer of the Province Of Sind, 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 shortly after the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus.

“Other research documents record about 2,500 Jews in Karachi with about 100 in Peshawar at the beginning of the 20th century. At the time of independence, many Jews migrated to India but about 2,000 stayed in Pakistan. Their first real exodus occurred soon after the creation of Israel which triggered many incidents of violence against Jews and the Karachi synagogue became a site of anti-Israel demonstrations. The majority of Jews who left Pakistan are said to have settled in Ramle, Israel, and have built a synagogue called Magain Shalome.

“Arif Hassan, renowned architect and town-planner, believes that this was a highly prosperous and active community. “Families such as the Dulseys were very important as prominent educationists who moved to Israel. One of them was also in government service.”

“Hassan also recalls that there were two famous Jewish cabaret artistes who performed at the Roma Shabana nightclub. “They were the Daniel sisters in the ‘70s and their names were Deborah and Suzie. One became a heroine in films and the other remained a dancer in clubs and films,” says Hassan.

“Commenting on the state of the graveyard and the fact that most of Karachi is either in denial of its existence or oblivious to it, Hassan says that it is vital for it to become a protected area. “I have asked for it to be made heritage property. If that does not happen, it will be destroyed like the Hindu cremation ground where many samadhis of prominent Hindus have given way to the Lyari Expressway,” asserts Hassan who is working on a three-volume account of the city.

“But the relevant government departments have no such plans. “No work is being done at the moment to make it a protected site. If this is done, it will be under the Special Preservation Act 1994 but we work mostly on cultural sites,” says Qasim Ali Qasim, head of Southern Circuit of the Archaeology Department.

“However, Qasim believes that if an NGO adopts a monument or a site then his department would provide the necessary technical assistance required to preserve it.”

Read article in full

Yes, there were once Jews in Pakistan

16 Comments

  • Its too bad that all the Jews have left Pakistan. Now Muslims have to kill other Muslims to earn their entry to Paradise. Frankly speaking I am happy and relieved that Karachi's Jews have migrated. Pakistan is not capable of protecting its citizens. Jewish heritage spans several millenia and is spread over six continents. Leaving Karachi is not their loss, its Pakistan's loss. Even moderate Pakistanis like me feel suffocated in today's Islamic Repubic. Its funny how we feel connected to our brothers in Palestine and not to our Jewish brothers from Karachi.

    Reply
  • yeah…seriously its a homeland of Jews too…i do not support Jews… i just support the sunnah, if any of Jew is in Karachi or Pakistan…he is Pakistani and its protection is our responsibility…to protect them we prove our selves Good Muslims…not to destroy them in our and their homeland Pakistan

    Reply
  • Allah ordered all the muslims to be generous and good towards muslims as well as with the jews, christians ,hindus etc.All we need to be good with every human .It,s very pleasent that jews are also living with us in Karachi, it,s there homeland too.

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  • If this is true then it is one of the most shameful things upon any muslim for we are instructed to protect and give equal rights to the people of the book. I sincerely pray that muslims understand their religion better and see the responsibilities that we have as humans.

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  • Its so sad that people belonging to any community would have to go in hiding to protect themselves. We always cry out loud about israel and its policies towards muslims, but may be we should look at ourselves too.
    If our gov't can not provide protection to Pakistani jews, may be they should confess this and give those few jews a free access to go anywhere in the world. I am sure most of them would chose to go to Israel and they should be given a safe passage

    Reply
  • If you Jewish people do need help or contacts of resources than email me on [email protected] i am a rescue operational personnel in Karachi residing in dastagir i as a child have worked with Israeli soldiers in Karachi during the Afghan war in 1990 and have contacts to provide safe channels to Jews to move outside Pakistan.

    Reply
  • I AM ONE OF THE CUSTODIANS OF THE GRAVEYARD WHERE JEWS GRAVES ARE. I NEED A FULL REPORT ABOUT JEWS IN KARACHI.

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  • u people are stamped by god u can never do anything good. u people donot deserve to live here or anywher else. the jews in karachi cant expose them watever no. they are. it is the sympathy of only muslims that they are living with the jews just becoz they are also humans huh

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  • i wish that some of us jews scattered around in karachi may come together and break bread.

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  • The forty years rule for graveyards
    in Pakistan still stand, for the
    last person to be put to the ground
    over there in the grave. 1987 + 40
    yrs + 1 or 2 years extra. In the
    previous post, I mentioned 2017. It should stand as correct
    Min- 2027.
    I wish Rachel well.

    Like in the last census or
    population count, certain areas of
    Karachi was uncounted, you say ex.
    How about Lyari. U will say, how
    did I am come to my sum, the
    Jews are more than the Parsi
    community. The Jewish community
    in Karachi had alway been a
    vibrant one. In 1901 census,
    some plus 400 Jews in Karachi in
    a city of 30,000. So slightly
    more than 1 in every 100 was
    Jewish. I know, we have to
    come to the year 2007. 50%
    migrated, 25% dead but the rest
    lived on to have children and so
    forth. Now what is the population
    of Karachi in 2007. How many Jews
    will be in Karachi right now about
    70,000. Now with the Parsi dying
    off in Karachi. All Old Parsis but
    few children. The Jewish
    community in Karachi is a vibrant
    one. Therefore the Jews in Karachi
    are more than the Parsi community.
    I know, with all this information
    out now. The Jewish community may
    feel frightened in Karachi, but
    take relief. If U.B.L could not
    be found, How will a Jew be found
    by the Islamist elements in the
    city of darkness. If one keep to
    one-self. G-d bless Karachi and
    beloved Israel. Shalom.

    Reply
  • The facts should be put and given
    in a straight manner. Bad luck for
    the Jews which whom do remain in Karachi. The government is in
    denial like the Iranians over
    the Holocaust.

    In the Dawn newspaper in printed
    form. There is a picture or photo.
    In different news paper. Which you
    can read on the internet, you can
    add one + one together, come to know, who grave is that person.
    One can, alway visit the grave to
    confirm the person. I am not sure
    about the Jewish people who may
    still be in Karachi, but in
    general No one in Karachi will be
    able to follow the Hebrew script
    which may be on the graves. I still
    think and believe the 40 years
    law about graveyard is still in
    force. So if, Rachel is still
    alive. G-d bless her soul. Her
    brother who died in 1987. 40 years
    will be up in 2017. Like Saint
    Paul school in Karachi. What was
    the use of the ground before the
    school was built up. A grave yard.

    I can say for a fact in here. In
    Karachi, it-self is bless with
    G-d chosen people. Some may say
    only 10 family. Nah. The truth
    is out there. The number of Jews
    in beloved Karachi is more than
    the Parsi community. G-d bless
    Karachi and beloved Israel.

    Reply

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