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Karachi's 'Yahoodi Masjid'

Updated Sep 16, 2015 06:43pm


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Akhtar Balouch, also known as the Kiranchi Wala, ventures out to bring back to’s readers the long forgotten heritage of Karachi. Stay tuned to this space for his weekly fascinating findings.

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After Pakistan’s independence, we changed the names of the buildings, streets and roads named after prominent personalities from the days of the British Raj, who played a vital role in Karachi’s development. The practice has not ended yet.

Similar was the fate of the Jewish and Hindu communities of Pakistan. There were some fortunate failures in erasing the archeological and developmental traces of the Raj from Karachi. However, when it came to ridding Karachi of the traces of Hindus and Jews, no stone was left unturned. Our hatred for the Jews goes a long way into the past. The Jews knew it, too. That is why they left the country for good and chose to make Israel their home.

In her book ‘Malika-e-Mashriq’ (Queen of the East), Mehmooda Rizwiya has written about the Jewish presence in Karachi. On page 146 of the said book, the author tells us that the Jews are settled in Lawrence Quarters… That a majority of them belong to the working class… That they are commonly known as ‘Bani Israel’ (the tribe of Israel)… Their ways of butchering edible, kosher animals is different. She also tells us that they have a cemetery and a haikal (synagogue), and that they are very few in numbers, and are mostly educated and well off.

In the Sindh Gazetteer of 1907, Edward H. Aitken mentions that according to the 1901 census, the total population of Jews [in Sindh] was 482 and almost all of them live in Karachi. They are mostly from the Bani Israel community, it further states.

In his book ‘Karachi Tareekh Ke Aaeene Mein’ (Karachi in the Mirror of History), Muhammad Usman Damohi writes on page 652 that the Jews only had one cemetery in Karachi, located south-east of the Haji Camp area. It was called the Bani Israel Cemetery.

Mehmooda Rizwiya writes that the Old Jewish Cemetery is adjacent to Usmanabad and is in the south-east of the Haji Camp. She has also mentioned two synagogues in Karachi. Before we move to the two synagogues, we should be aware of how the migrant Pakistani Jews dwelling in Israel are doing and what they think of Karachi.

Daniel of Soldier Bazar

Renowned author, journalist and columnist, Muhammad Hanif once had the opportunity to visit Israel. Associated with the British Broadcasting Corporation, Hanif’s travelogue of this tour was broadcast from the BBC. It was later published in the renowned literato Ajmal Kamal’s monthly Aaj magazine in 2001 (edition no. 35).

In his travelogue, Hanif writes of an event that he attended during his visit to Israel. He says at the end of the event, the organisers suddenly remembered that Hanif had not delivered his speech, so they grabbed his arm and brought him on stage. Hanif writes, “I spoke and told them that I was not from India but Karachi, I said and I had come on account of some business. And then I went on to say how glad I was to see them etcetera… Upon hearing of my origins, a man sitting in the first row began sobbing. As soon as I stepped off stage, this man, probably in his later 40s then, obese in outlook and dark in complexion, came to me and took me to a corner where he embraced me like a long lost brother. This man was Daniel from Karachi’s Soldier Bazar. “I have not seen anyone from Karachi since 1968,” Daniel, still sobbing, told me. “I used to study there in an English medium school. We had our own mosque. Ayoub Khan (the then President of Pakistan) even sent police for its protection during the war of ‘67.”

Hand on his chest, Daniel then said, “We had no problems there (in Pakistan). No one ever said a bad thing to us. We just saw all the Jews were going to Israel and we followed. Do you know Zafar Khan of Soldier Bazar?”

Daniel is a factory worker in Israel. He is married to an Indian Jewish girl and is a father of two. He says it is his wish to visit Karachi once before he dies. “We hear there is another military government in Pakistan?” Daniel said, in a tone suggesting he already knows the answer, adding; “Only they can run the country.””

Hanif writes further that Daniel told him he was not happy in Israel, especially in Ramallah. When asked why by Hanif, Daniel replies, “You know how we, Pakistanis and Indians, are different from one another. They can never like us, nor we like them. We are only a couple of families here. My wife is an Indian, but it is just not that thing, you know.” Hanif tells him, “But these are your Jewish brethren,” to which Daniel instantly replies, “Yes, yes, but in the end they are Indians.”

The Bani Israel Trust

We were about to explore the Jewish synagogues of Karachi. The most famous among these was the building of the Magain Shalome Synagogue of the Bani Israel Trust. It is still known to the people of Karachi as the 'Israeli Masjid' or the 'Yahoodi Masjid'.

An old friend and senior journalist, Mr. Zarrar Khan, who used to live in the Ranchore Line area up until the 70s related an eyewitness account that the synagogue was situated at the central square of Ranchore Line, where now in its place stands a tall building called the Madiha Square. Zarrar also said that the official name of the street then was 'Synagogue Street'.

My friend, Qazi Khizr Habib was of much help in this regard. He told me that the last trustee of the Bani Israel Trust was Rachel Joseph who transferred the power of attorney of the building to a Mr. Ahmed Ilahi, son of Meher Ilahi. There was an agreement that a commercial building was to replace the synagogue. Furthermore, the ground floor of the new building would have shops and businesses, while the first floor was to become the new synagogue. The agreement was duly followed initially, and the synagogue was constructed. However, after a while, the synagogue was replaced by residential apartments. This resulted into litigation between Rachel Joseph and some other people representing the second party. The case was won by Rachel and her attorney.

I spoke with a lawyer friend of mine, Mr. Younas Shad, and through him I approached Rachel Joseph’s lawyer. He told me Rachel had moved to London quite some time ago.

In her piece on the Bani Israel graveyard, published in Dawn on the 6th of May, 2007, Reema Abbasi refers to her conversation with Rachel Joseph. They talked about the cemetery, of which Rachel was the last custodian. This proves that Rachel was in Karachi till the year 2007. Later, she chose the Bani Israel path of migration.

The Jewish Cemetery

Our next stop was the Jewish cemetery. I asked for help in this regard from my journalist friend Ishaq Baloch. He lives in the Golimar area. He told me the graveyard is looked after by a Baloch family. He further told me he had visited the place once, but the guarding Baloch family allowed him to enter the graveyard only after so much of cajoling; and that, too, without a camera. This was frustrating for me. Ishaq suggested that I speak to the young journalist, Abu Bakar Baloch. Ishaq sahib said that Abu Bakar’s family was on good terms with the Baloch family guarding the cemetery.

I went straight to Abu Bakar and told him how desperate I was to get into the graveyard. He said, “We will go there on Sunday and see what we can do.”

On the decided day, I went to Abu Bakar’s place in Lyari’s Nawa Lane area, whence we went to the Mewa Shah graveyard. There, Abu Bakar pointed out a woman who was selling flower petals at the gate of the Cutchi-Memon graveyard. As soon I went forward and greeted her, she gave me a disgruntled look, sensing immediately that I was not there to buy petals. She said in Urdu, “You cannot go inside.” I looked at Abu Bakar’s face. He spoke in Balochi and told her with whose reference we had come.

Cleaning the branches of a Niazbo (Holy basil), the woman looked at us in disbelief. She then repeated her previous answer in Urdu. However, now her tone was not as hard as it was before. I felt it was the right moment for me to utilise my lifeline of the Balochi language. So, I started talking to her in both our mother tongue, requesting her to let us visit the cemetery.

Her replies, now in Balochi, were directed at me. Almost completely ridding her tone of the sourness she earlier welcomed us with, she said,

People came before you as well. They only took pictures. They had told us they will fix the graveyard; that its boundary wall will be raised. Nothing happened.

“We have raised the walls ourselves, otherwise people would have stolen the marble [from the tombstones],” she said discontentedly.

The elderly woman told us that the cemetery had more than 500 graves. She also told us that her family had guarded the cemetery for over a century now.

During the conversation, she kept on giving us reason to be disheartened, not once flinching from her stance that we were not to enter the graveyard. I, on the other hand, kept on trying. Finally, teased to her toes, she told us to come by on Monday and meet her son. We were about to take leave, when a man riding a motorcycle entered the scene. It was the woman’s son, Arif. He gave us a quizzical look. His mother told him who we were and the purpose of our visit.

Arif was his mother all over again in the beginning, stating firmly, and repeating, that we were not to enter the cemetery. The only difference was that he was way less sour than his mother. I started talking to him in Balochi, trying to convince him. As soon as I noticed traces of wonder and acceptance in his eyes, I reiterated how important it was for me to visit the graveyard. After some reasoning, he finally agreed. He did lay down a condition, however, that only one man could go with him. I accepted without a second thought.

At last, I was standing in the premises of the graveyard. The next round was that of clicking some photos. The graveyard was buried under untamed, thorny vegetation. I slowly took the camera out of my pocket and started taking pictures. Arif saw this and, to my relief, allowed me to take as many pictures as I wanted, since I was his Baloch brother. Meanwhile, he was repeating what his mother had earlier informed us about, adding that he used to clean the graveyard himself. However, last year he had a motorbike accident in which he broke his leg, so the task had become too arduous for him now.

Arif told me that about a year ago, a man called on him, informing him that some people wanted to meet him at the Sheraton Hotel. Arif went there and met four persons who inquired about the graveyard’s state in detail. They did not visit the place, Arif added. He says some people come by sometime, mostly for photography, while making big, hollow promises. In the end, Arif concludes, nothing happens as usual.

I wondered if the people of Bani Israel should be thankful that the graves of their beloveds in Pakistan were being watched over by a group of Baloch people. Otherwise, it too, would probably meet the same fate as the 'Yahoodi Masjid'.

-Translated by Ayaz Laghari / Photos by Akhtar Balouch

Read this blog in Urdu here.

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Akhtar Balouch is a senior journalist, writer and researcher. He is currently a council member of the HRCP. Sociology is his primary domain of expertise, on which he has published several books.

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

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Comments (100) Closed

Rafiq Oct 03, 2013 04:19pm

Masjid Place of Prayer for Muslim Not a Yahoodi

Basharat Oct 03, 2013 04:28pm

Beautiful eye watering article. Actually, somebody told the correct thing that we Pakistanis are selfish. Some years ago when chaudharies were in power in punjab province especially in Lahore, they tried their utmost best to change the names of the historical buildings and monuments like Ganga Ram Hospital, Monte Goumary Road, etc with their own forefathers names but failed to do so due strict action against them by the then federal government's heritage wing with the good answer which looks like a slap on their faces. They told them that they can put the names of your forefathers on your own buildings if you were so anxious about them I suggest the present government to pass the strict law to protect our heritage sites, so that our future generation can see them.

aligh Oct 03, 2013 04:30pm

nice article

Omar Oct 03, 2013 04:31pm

Pakistani's actually get along well with Jews and have nothing against the Jewish people or the faith which shares many commonalities. In fact we share more in common than difference. Many of the lost tribes of Israel are known to have settled in Pakistan and were integrated into larger parent tribe unlike the their compatriots in the Middle East. And there are still many Pakistani jews albeit a smaller number who live in Pakistan. Unfortunately, many were ''encouraged'' or lured to go to Israel and the political ramifications of Israels politics has spilled over to the general perception of ''Jews'' in general. I think there needs to be a distinction between the two as not all Jews are ''Israeli'' and not all Jews or Israeli's for that matter agree with the policies of Israel. Jews were an integral part of Karachi, Peshawer and Rawalpindi for thousands of years. They are and still are our brothers!

zak Oct 03, 2013 04:31pm

Thank you Daniel a Pakistan forever, in a few words you have said it all!

Daniel replies,

ss Oct 03, 2013 04:37pm

I think that Daniel of Solder Bazar was in Jufelhurst School (my alma mater), thank you akhter Baloch for showing us how beautiful and tolerant once our city was.

Faisal Mohsin Oct 03, 2013 04:38pm

An excellent piece!

Anees Oct 03, 2013 04:50pm

"... Our hatred for the Jews goes a long way into the past."....

While they still love us.

Imran Oct 03, 2013 04:49pm

I am fearful, someone will raze it down in the name of religion or commercial benefit. Should be protected at all costs

Baluch Oct 03, 2013 05:08pm

Excellent article, Mr.Akhtar. Karachi, like the rest of Sind, was such a bastion of tolerance and respect where people of various faiths and ethnicities co-existed together in the ancient Sufi traditions of the land. And like Daniel living in Israel shows that culture has a force that supersedes all other forces - Daniel was pining for his native culture in Sind whilst he lived in the splendour of a highly developed country like Israel. LIke the philosophy of another ancient community that once flourished in our vibrant city, the Zoroastrians, everything in life comes around - so who knows, it is possible that Karachi may once again become the magical city where people from all over would live in peace and harmony once again.

Imran Siddiqui Oct 03, 2013 05:12pm

Very informative article, thanks for sharing the heritage of Karachi with us. One request is that Balochs and the rest of the Pakistanis share the same good and bad attributes. The graveyard would have been safe even if it was guarded by some on-Baloch Pakistanis.

Idealist Oct 03, 2013 05:17pm

Thanks for this Akhtar sahab. .

Rao Oct 03, 2013 05:28pm

I would like to know how Jews in India are doing! Can somebody write about it. They are also known as Bene -Israelis.

Asad Mumatz Oct 03, 2013 05:37pm

This is such Execellent Research by Great Researcher and journlist Akhtar Baloch....Well Done

sid Oct 03, 2013 05:59pm

@Rao: Very few left......About a few thousand.....Rest migrated to Israel......But there properties are safe most are now museums......we have Israeli embassy in India....They participate in Indian embassy programs in Tel aviv like independence day,republic day etc......

zulfiqar ahmad Oct 03, 2013 06:02pm

Alas, we can only dream for a society where every one has right to live according to his faith. When will we become humane?.

Agha Ata Oct 03, 2013 06:42pm

Do you think it is wise to publish such information in the paper that Taliban would have (If they can read, of course) ?

Aiza Oct 03, 2013 06:46pm

This was a very interesting piece of writing. Fascinating to look into Pakistan' s rich heritage. But I do not think it was necessary to state that this only could be guarded by some Balochis. We are all Pakistanis and the majority of us are nice and generous people. Facing a difficult time does not mean that we should loose our self.

Tafrih Oct 03, 2013 07:00pm

Always good to hear about the goodness and loyalty of our Pakistani people despite all the madness surrounding us for the past few decades.

Feroz Oct 03, 2013 07:19pm

@Rao: The Jews in India have mostly emigrated, not all of them to Israel though. The population now is too small at best a couple of families in most cities. Mumbai and Kochi still boast larger numbers. Their Synagogue in Kochi is beautiful and a major tourist attraction. However in the North Eastern state of Mizoram there is a tribe now recognized as the "lost tribe", they are also slowly moving to Israel. What we see today are a large number of Israeli tourists in destinations like Goa, Kulu/Manali and select hill stations. They stick to themselves and stay for months sometimes years, surviving on cheap food and cheap Cannabis and Hashish. Chennai had many Jews in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and they mostly controlled the Diamond trade. In my travels globally I found great reverence for India among all Jews I met, they claim it to be the only country where Jews lived in Peace through all times without ever facing discrimination. All I can say is that Jews and Zoroastrians refugees enriched India in multiple dimensions, way beyond their paltry numbers.

malik Oct 03, 2013 07:58pm

Excellent article. The writer made streneous effort to get the first hand picture. I do not doubt the sincerity of the Baluch family guarding this cemetary. They seems to be smart folks who probably had read what happened to the Ahmadi graveyard where the tombstone were destroyed when one of the Ahmadia chief cried,"they would not even let our dead rest in peace". There is great lesson to learn from this article and of course the Baluch family should be honored. I am curious what is their means of livelihood. Some fund from a trust fund, perhaps?

Wahab Hassan Oct 03, 2013 07:58pm

Great Blog Sir G .. Keep it up

Bhasker Oct 03, 2013 08:00pm

Till your religion-centric fundamentalistic approach is abandoned, all minorities and their contributions to Pakistan shall be exterminated.

Shahid Salam Oct 03, 2013 08:18pm

Thank you Mr. Baloch for a very interesting and informative article. Religion has through the ages been a source of discord; yet there were times in history when people believed that their faith was something between them and their God. Separation of church and state is a guiding principle of western democracies. Unfortunately, today, in Pakistan no one is really safe; the worst off are the minorities.

Hope to read more of your articles about Karachi, a city I have lived in, off and on, from the early 50's; having permanently joined the diaspora Pakistanis in Canada.

immigrant Oct 03, 2013 08:21pm

very sad all the minorities is now on a verge of leaving Pakistan

HM Oct 03, 2013 08:26pm

Most of the people want to live peacefully in Karachi... even today.... and most will agree with Daniel of Soldier Bazar... "We had no problems there (in Pakistan). No one ever said a bad thing to us. We just saw all the Jews were going to Israel and we followed. Do you know Zafar Khan of Soldier Bazar?

SPRINKLE Oct 03, 2013 08:36pm

@Rafiq: narrow minded mr. rafiq. Shame on you. You are not a sole owner of the word MASJID. It can be used regardless of any religion. Masjid means a Place of Prayer.

Khalid Ahmed Oct 03, 2013 08:39pm

@Rafiq: Is that all you got out of this well researched article??

ramesh Oct 03, 2013 08:49pm

@Imran: thanks buddy from bottem of my heart .atleast someone in pakistan respect all religions. world needs people like you.

Tamilslevan Oct 03, 2013 08:53pm

Islamists have always destroyed culture and history. One does not see this in India or other non-Islamic countries, why? We still have Jewish synagogues in India and no one goes to destroy them. After all almost all the Pakistanis were once Hindus or Sikhs but once they were converted they destroyed their own history. Thanks to successive rulers of Pakistan such as Zia. Once a culture is lost the soul of the country is lost. Sadly Pakistan is heading in that direction

Rameez Siddiqi Oct 03, 2013 08:59pm

Really enjoyed reading this article.... Very informative ... never knew about this !

shakirally Oct 03, 2013 09:04pm

@Rafiq: Wherever people do "sajda" is a "masjid" Jews do sajda as well

Junaid raza Oct 03, 2013 09:16pm

Excellent research Akhtar sahab!! (Y)

john Oct 03, 2013 09:24pm

@zak: I am hundred percent sure the author has put these words in Daniel's mouth.

manish Oct 03, 2013 09:28pm

@Omar: Can you say same for hindus,

Karachi Wala Oct 03, 2013 09:48pm

Good that Daniel from Karachi

SABIR Oct 03, 2013 10:01pm

Religions were just the ways of life to help tame apes/men to evolution. Some human still need very rigid and punishing religions until they become tamed to proceed further towards unknown journey which will not be seen by present-day people just like people of past who did not see what is happening now.

rich Oct 03, 2013 10:14pm

@zak: i find it a little hard to beleive, for one even pakistani muslim and indian non mulsim get along very well once the are outside the country, and here we are speaking of jews who are the same, whether they were in bombay or karachi they did not divide the country, there was no division between them they just happned to be on different side of the border

i have been to israel there the difference is between white jews mostly migrated from europe, local jews and south asian jews and african jews

the very thing daniel married an india jews shows there is no hatred between them

i rest my care

Raja Oct 03, 2013 10:22pm

@zulfiqar ahmad: You have a point. But other societies also have some obligations to share. A true Pakistani and a true Muslim will always be a sigh of relief for others; irrespective of cast, clolour, creed or religion.

ahmad butt Oct 03, 2013 11:24pm

Very good article Mr.Balouch, this is a jewel in our sub continent history, thanks for the pictures this is consolation for the preservation of our heritage. I have heard from some Karachite colleagues that their elders liked harmoniously among the Polish and other christians, parsis(who follow Zoroastrian faith) , some bahai and other faith oriented people from Iran and the remainder jews, and Quaids independence overture was seen as unification of the people. Non the tables have turned and other issues have taken over. There are only two countries in the world that are built on the pillar of religion, one is Pakistan( at least this was taught in our textbook) and the other being Israel. I wonder how the other minorities in Israel are treated. Though even with polarisation, I guess people still believe in Quaid's version of Pakistan even the frustrated urban youth, and for the future generation religion wont matter, being the son of the soil does.

Irfan Haque Oct 03, 2013 11:56pm

@Rao: Recently about 400 North Indian moved to Israel because they happened to be people of lost tribe. Rest you can guess.

Kamal Ayoub Oct 04, 2013 12:11am

Great Piece Baloch Sb.

wes Oct 04, 2013 12:38am

This is a real eye opener. Long time I overheard a conversation at gathering about Jews in Pakistan who migrated just like the article says. It was true after all. A real neglected side of a Pakistani society.

Sonal Oct 04, 2013 02:02am

@sid: @Rao:

We also have a number of synagogues...I think Mumbai alone has 7-8. Nariman House, one of the places attacked during the Mumbai shootings (where the Rabbi and his wife were killed) is a Jewish Centre...

And a prominent restaurateur - Moshe Shek - who owns the Moshe's chain in Mumbai is a Jewish Indian.

We had a Jewish family in the building where I grew up. They spoke Konkani / Marathi like a lot of Indian Jews, and kept a very low profile. Parents now dead, children married to non-Jewish Indians.

When I went to Israel last year I saw a ton of Indian Jews there...seemed Keralan.

Rajput Bhatti Oct 04, 2013 02:25am

@Anees: Yes, like they love the Palestinians, you should read what David Ben Gurion had to say about Pakistan, it may open your eyes.

G.A. Oct 04, 2013 03:21am

Every country, race, nation and community has good and bad people. I firmly believe that the conflict is actually between the good and bad people in this world. The fearful, xenophobic ones try to harm relations amongst us.

Syed Yusuf Hasnain Oct 04, 2013 03:34am

God knows where we went wrong, and are being punished of that sin. I still remembe visiting American Library next to Nishat cinema doors open for all and no guards at all, direct from Jacob Line school, I use to go there and enjoy reading , Naqoosh & Times magzine ( Remember Ayub Khan shaking hand with Malika Britania) cover.

Daanish Oct 04, 2013 04:55am

Wonder full article.

Mr Q Oct 04, 2013 05:02am

good riddance for was even better had they migrated to US

ROHIT PANDEY Oct 04, 2013 05:06am

There are hardly any Jews left in India..I have visited the synagogue in Cochin.The Jews were of Indian culture but many younger generation preferred Israel..I don't know about Jews in Mumbai or Kalkutta....

They only have warm memories of India in Israel and as some one else mentioned here often turn up at the Indian embassy to celebrate Independence Day.

Lot of them left for Australia after the Independence...

AKG Oct 04, 2013 05:58am

Read the book THE GIRL FROM FOREIGN by Pakistani-American writer Sadia Shepard who discovers that her grandmother was Jewish.

AKG Oct 04, 2013 06:05am

Is it not true that the synagogue in Karachi was destroyed on orders of Zia?

Black Oct 04, 2013 06:06am

Great work Mr. Akhtar, alas we forced that Rachel to leave Pakistan too. I hope we become a tolerant nation

GM Oct 04, 2013 07:11am

I wish I can have my city back.What happened to us. How did we become so intolerant to each other.

Mansoor Oct 04, 2013 07:40am

@Anees: If you doubt that ask the Palestinians.

malik Oct 04, 2013 08:53am

I fail to understand our hatred for Christians and Jews when God said they are people of the book and Quran is full of episodes of Bani Israel.

Syeda Jafri Oct 04, 2013 09:04am

Very well written article. Wish to see a more accepting & tolerant Pakistan one day :)

murtaza Oct 04, 2013 09:05am

very informative indeed (Y)

murtaza Oct 04, 2013 09:08am

very informative indeed (Y) i never knew Pak has/had a jewish community as well..

naveed Oct 04, 2013 09:18am

really a master piece, thanks akhtar sb.

W. Uddin Oct 04, 2013 11:15am

Congratulations to Mr. Akhtar Baloch and DAWN. I tweeted. Excellent research. I studies 6 years in that area of interior Karachi including Pakistan Chowk in mid to late 60's but never knew about Karachi's Jewish history. I sent some excerpts and photo links to a professor friend in Israel for info. Professor W Uddin

abdirizak Haji Mohamed Oct 04, 2013 11:31am

Im very pleased about this article , because it tells history and old culture of Karachi and in Muslim community , I believe Muslim community can be welcome a Jewish , but jewish can they preserve the recepricol way. Than Bolich bhia

kkrishna Oct 04, 2013 11:28am

Why are you pakistanis grieving over the Jews who have left your land long time back? If you don't take care of the your Hindu community now, in future your grand children will be grieving about the current hindus who would be gone to India or forced to convert.

netanhaiyu Oct 04, 2013 12:07pm

@Omar: You probably meant erstwhile India as a unified Country, when people of all ethnic Community lived in somewhat peace rather than the butchering taking place these days in the name of religion..

Historically in the last hundred years their has been no cultural or physical migration of Jews or others to this part of the world other than the unfortunate partition of India, I say so because after 66 years the idea behind the great divide is yet to prove the effeicacy of the so called visionary leaders. By saying so I do not mean that the two nations should become one , no never would I dream of it.

To sum it up ; after half a century it is fair to say few of our leaders were nothing more than self centerd idiots who have sacrificed the future of the current and coming generations for their gain.

Farrukh chowdry Oct 04, 2013 12:14pm

Now that the country is infected by religious extremists who want to occupy the country in the name of Jehad there will be no tolerance or peace.

SKChadha Oct 04, 2013 12:45pm

History suggests that during the Mughal Era, there was a tradition of the Afghans (the Pashtun people) being descended from the exiled lost tribes of Israel. It is also historical recording that many present day Taliban are from Jewish decendancy (notably George Moore's The Lost Tribes of 1861). The Jewish community florished in Afghanistan from 7th to 20th Century. According to the 'Encyclopaedia of Islam', the theory of Pashtun descent from Israelites is traced to Maghzan-e-Afghani, a history compiled for Khan-e-Jehan Lodhi in the reign of Mughal Emperor Jehangir in the 16th century.

Hussain Oct 04, 2013 01:17pm

Soldier Bazaar !! The meeting point of all religions and sects and politicians ...

Christians, Hindus, Parsis, Jews and some Muslims too!

Shias, Sunnis and Bohris,

Nawaz, Bhutto and MQM!

All peaceful in Karachi you say?

In Soldier Bazar only!

Khalid Oct 04, 2013 01:27pm

@Rafiq: This is the hight of ignorance. Our prophet Mohammed vacated a mosque so that Christians could pray in peace. Your comment makes us muslims sound like as thick as you are. Your ignorance and rudeness, in this day and age, is unbelievable.

Sabih Mohsin Oct 04, 2013 01:29pm

When I came to Karachi in 1948, I got admitted to Fifth Standard (equal to Class IX of the present system) in the NJV School which still stands on the M.A.Jinnah Road. Sir Benjamin, a Jew used to teach us Science. Then he suddenly disappeared. Migrated to Israel.Must have taken the decision more for emotions than due to hard facts as no one had hated him or caused him any trouble here. Might be now repenting his decision like Daniel from Karachi who met Hanif of BBC in Israel.

Rayaz Quraishi Oct 04, 2013 01:42pm

In my childhood I lived in Ranchore Lines in a place called Narsingh Building. It was then known as Barnes Steet, now it is Jameela Street. It was block of small flats directly opposite the the Synagogue. We lived a second floor flat and due to its high position I could see what went on in the Jews prayer meetings in the open court yard. My family moved from there in November 1958. In 1962 I moved to London. Many years later when I went there Narsingh Building and the the Synagogue no more.

May I say that the Karachi Cantonment Railway was run by Mr Solomon the station master, a Jewish gentelman. I met him several times.

Mazhar Laghari Oct 04, 2013 01:40pm

Great article. There are several buildings in Karachi linked with Jewsih community. Many of them have star of David on them. One of the most important structure is Free Mason Hall. I would suggest Akhtar sahib should also explore all these and trek the footsteps of the community that has disappeared from the city.

Maya Oct 04, 2013 02:15pm

I enjoyed reading this article, never even knew there used to be any Jews in Pakistan. Wish we were a tolerant society and a nation and let everybody live in peace. Sad how non Muslims and different sects of Muslims are leavin the country because thy don't feel safe there anymore xx

Rakesh Oct 04, 2013 02:32pm

@zulfiqar ahmad: I think you meant 'human' instead of "humane".

Jamil Oct 04, 2013 02:51pm

Being a Pakistani, I live in Istanbul and close to my residence there are two old Jewish Cemeteries and Synagogues, with no security whatsoever. Also Mosques and Church are close by. I admire the level of tolerance Turkish people have for all type of religions. During the Ottomans period, Jews had a small population but after the First World War, Kamal Ataturk offered special concession for sheltering (from Nazis onslaught) the rich & educated Jewish community to settle in Turkey. Until 1970s, most of the famous Turkish Scientist, Engineer, Educationist etc. were Jews. They all made a strong base for this beautiful tolerant country. I wish we had a strong leadership with such visision after the creation of Pakistan.

Puru Oct 04, 2013 03:30pm

Dawn amazes me with the depth of its journalism. What an insightful post written with a genuine heart. I so wish that trash like ToI in my country could learn a lesson or two from Dawn.

It was great to have a glimpse of our heritage in this article. Thank you Akhtar sahab.

Ali Shah Oct 04, 2013 04:16pm

A wonderful piece done by Akhtar Balouch. Awesome research and it was a pleasure to read such well written articles in Dawn despite the paucity of material available. Looking forward to more such pieces from Akhtar Balouch.

deep Oct 04, 2013 04:21pm

The bit about the Pakistani Jew hating the Indian jew was hilarious - your celebrated author went all the way to Israel and discovered that. Wonderful. Does that make you feel better that anyone in India should be hated because of his or her proximity to the all time hateful species of Hindus?

prafulla shrivastva Oct 04, 2013 04:46pm

@Rao: I know lots of jews in India but mostly they live in Mumbai. They all are having dream of migration to Israel as they love Israel very much. One big Synagogue is at Mahalaxmi near Sat Rashta. I have visited this many times with my jews friends another is in Thane which has become much bigger now. They are in good position & rich as they are miser.

Sharjeel Raza Khan Oct 04, 2013 05:12pm

I completely support the idea of protecting our heritage irrespective of class, creed or religion. However, I am really curious as to why is this certain Baluch family guarding this graveyard for the last one hundred years?

AliBengali Oct 04, 2013 05:14pm


Quite a basic article, but I think overall you have done a good effort.

Unfortunately you did not comment on how pakistanis treated the Jewish community living there. I suppose they suffered the same fate as Hindus, Sikhs and probably quite like the recent episode of the church bombing in Peshawar.

There's not a single day that goes by, that we don't see a suicide attack in Pakistan.

Yours faithfully

Ali Bengali

irfan baloch Oct 04, 2013 08:01pm

@Omar: please there is a limit to fabrication. in our current times fellow Muslims dont even tolerate the fellow Sunnis , shias, Ahemdis, Christians and Hindus get constantly persecuted and you think our people will tolerate and live along Jews?

Syed Azam Oct 04, 2013 08:12pm

@khalid: What are we, animals? Are Palestinian asking for this brutality or we just assume that this is a great service to the Palestinian cause?

No wonder world thinks Islam is nothing but a barbaric religion. Suggestions like these just add more fuel to the fire.

razzak abro Oct 04, 2013 09:10pm

Its good to read Akhtar's blog in English language also. Its a great job as many of us want to more and more about our history. Akhtar should continue such kind of work, and he should also explore other communities and their historic place and institutions in Karachi such as Gujratis, Sindhis, Parsis etc.

shaukat Oct 04, 2013 09:41pm

with all due respect, the people who cant read Dawn are against it, other wise a common man is not against any religion back in the days we lived together in Ranchorline even jews see the diffidence then and now.

Pankaj Patel(USA) Oct 04, 2013 11:50pm

As a long time resident of Mumbai I know that Jewish population in Mumbai declined after creation of Israel but many still remained.They were called Baghdadi Jews and they were very prominent in almost all spheres of life of Mumbai.Film actress Nadia is very famous name in film industry.There were many like David Sasoon on whose name Sasoon dock and Sasoon textile institute is only few names I remember.They came to Mumbai along with the British and there is still a small 2500 population still lived in Colaba area when I was there.There is an old Synagogue mostly frequented by elderly.They are now spread all over Mumbai and so not very visible because of small number and perhaps seclusive nature due to present circumstance.I have met some living in Mumbai and they are very affluent.

HNY13 Oct 05, 2013 12:36am

@khalid: SO you are a coward not to do that yourself?

Umair Ali Shah Oct 05, 2013 01:21am

I felt a terrible twinge by reading this article. If Pakistan was a secure place minorities who lived here in the past would never leave this country. Akhtar Baloch, thank you for bringing us this blog.

IndianDude Oct 05, 2013 01:44am

Shahpur Oct 05, 2013 02:04am

I think similar logic applies to the former East Pakistan. After all they were Bengalis and we were different socially and culturally, and could not get along, even though we were all Muslims. My experience is that we get along well with Sikhs, because we are socially and culturally very similar, even though we have different religion. .

rumana husain Oct 05, 2013 09:35am

For my book 'Karachiwala: a subcontinent within a city' (published in 2010) I tried very hard to find members of the Jewish community in the city as I was documenting the diverse communities living here. Unfortunately, after a long search, I found none, but as word spread about my research, I heard from a few Jewish people who were either living here before or their parents/grandparents were from Karachi. Together with the review of my book (by the late Murtaza Razvi of Dawn), and an interview published in Dawn's Books & Authors, he published an excerpt from the book. I am sure readers of this wonderful article by Mr Akhtar Balouch would be interested in: 'No more (Jews) in Karachi' . Please note that the excerpt is from my text in the book and only the last four paras are from my communication with Jonathan Marder.

M Khaleeq Oct 05, 2013 11:37am

@malik: Simply lack of education and understanding. There is an element of jealousy that there are only 18 million Jews in the world and none is poor. Scientist, Lawyers, Doctors Teachers and Innovators, all come from Jewish community. You have to socialise with them to discover why they are the chosen people of God.

mba Oct 05, 2013 12:08pm

Congratulations for this very informative article. My assesment of comments is: Most readers of this newspaper are not trapped in narrow-minded and UN-ISLAMIC trditions of Talibans gangs. Tolerance for other Religions is of fundamental importance in Islam. My humble suggestion: Mr. SKChadha or other qualified persons can give more information on decendancy of Balochs (and a part of Talibans) from Jewish tribes.

rumana husain Oct 05, 2013 12:41pm

When I was researching for my book 'Karachiwala: a subcontinent within a city' documenting Karachi's diverse communities, I failed in finding any Jewish people, but during this search I got connected with a few Karachi Jews (who had either lived here themselves or their parents and grandparents were born here but now live in other countries). When Dawn's late Murtaza Razvi reviewed my book for Books & Authors, he also published this excerpt. Mr Akhtar Balouch and other readers may be interested in this excerpt from my text (there are also interviews and photos). The last 4 paras in this excerpt are by Jonathan Marder - one of the persons who had written to me.

Linchpin Oct 05, 2013 02:19pm

@manish: Yes the riots in Ahmadabad under were truely barbaric

Hussan Zia Oct 05, 2013 09:12pm

I remember a synagogue at the crossing where the Ismaili Jamaat Khana is located. I even tried to see it from the inside but the gate had a chain and lock put on it. This was in the mid 60s. Don't know what happened to it. A Pakistan naval officer from Baltistan was married to a Jewish lady from Karachi. They were our neighbours in 1976-77.

Araz Oct 06, 2013 12:27am

Outside Islam, Jewish religion is closest to Islam. Not sure why there is big rift!!!

chor ta Oct 06, 2013 03:25am

@Jamil: Please spread your message of tolerance through indian and pakistani news papers . Only living out side of our sub continent we understand value of humanity. You have to try hard to show image of civilized world to Pakistan and india. Please do a favor

chor ta Oct 06, 2013 03:34am

@Rayaz Quraishi: after few years you won't find even Karachi Cantt station, too.

Ali Oct 06, 2013 04:55am

What was the purpose of Mr Akhtar`s visit to this graveyard it was a place of which few people knew about now everybody knows about it and one wonders what they will do to it now. There may still be some Jews living in the country who pass themselves on as followers of christ for security reasons

Naushad Shafkat Oct 06, 2013 02:51pm

My maternal grand-father is buried in this graveyard. About a year back we received a call from one of the caretakers that some people were there and might be members of a land-mafia trying to grab some land. I immediately rushed there and found that a cultural Secretary of the Sindh Government had been there. I went to the Sindh Secretariat and met the gentleman. He was so kind and considerate and said that the visit had been only to survey the area and clean it up and prevent anyone from encroaching. The gentleman (I forget his name) was such a scholar and was so kind and considerate and assured me that the graveyard will be maintained at all costs. I was also fortunate to have visited the synagogue. It is a shame that it was demolished as Islam does not allow us to harm the places of worship of other religions.