Sunday, March 30, 2008

The untold story of the Jews of Pakistan

It might come as a surprise to many readers of this blog that the articles that have attracted the most comment have been about the Jews of Pakistan. The vast majority of comments are from Muslims who regret the loss of Pakistan's Jews, or who hark back to an earlier, more tolerant age.

Although Pakistan has never been at war with Israel, it has, a Muslim state, shown a tragic solidarity with its fellow Muslim Arab states by 'ethnically cleansing' its Jews. These numbered several hundred - or even a couple of thousand at the turn of the last century - depending on which estimate you believe. Now the few that remain are terrified of revealing their identity.

Point of No Return received this email from Deborah Dorrian, whose family managed to leave after the 1947 Partition into India and the Muslim State of Pakistan, and who now lives in Australia.

Here is her story:

"My father was born in Karachi in 1927 to Jewish parents. He went to the Karachi grammar school. They all fled Karachi and Pakistan. Why does no one know that there were Jews for centuries in the carpet business living in Karachi?

"An article two years ago featured the woman who was the last custodian of the Magen synagogue. Rachel Joseph was my father's teacher. Rachel still holds the keys to the last synagogue, which was pulled down to make way for a shopping centre. My father was so distressed to read articles in the Indian newspapers and on the Internet describing her fight with developers for compensation.

"We now live in Sydney, Australia. A mother I know and her son fled Karachi when India was partitioned in 1947. Five brothers could not get out: they left in 1960 as they could not sell their property. The Pakistani government insisted that they leave without compensation. All money left behind had to be ploughed back into the Islamic community.

"Only two years ago, General Musharraf became the first leader of Pakistan to recognise the Jews of Karachi on his trip to New York City."

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