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Pakistan’s only Jew seeks to preserve historic cemetery

Fishel Benkhald, the country’s sole self-declared Jew, campaigns to protect century-old graveyard in Karachi

Jewish graves in Karachi, Pakistan (photo credit: courtesy)
Jewish graves in Karachi, Pakistan (photo credit: courtesy)

The only self-declared Jew in Pakistan is seeking to preserve Karachi’s disused and neglected Jewish cemetery, the Guardian reported on Friday.

Fishel Benkhald, the son of a Muslim father and Iranian Jewish mother and a resident of the city of 20 million people, told the British paper he’s proud to be Jewish, even though his Pakistani ID registers him as Muslim. Benkhald was profiled by The Times of Israel in February.

The cemetery, whose 300 remaining graves date to the late 19th and early 20th centuries, is at risk of encroachment from the surrounding Muslim graveyard.

Many of Pakistan’s Jewish community fled the country in 1947 with the partition of British India, and others left after the establishment of the state of Israel a year later.

“I want the government to recognize the Jews as a minority in Pakistan,” Benkhald told the paper.

Thus far Benkhald’s efforts to get government assistance in maintaining the century-old cemetery have yielded little success.

Still, Arif Hasan, a local architect and cultural committee official, said the cemetery should be preserved.

“Naturally there is an anti-Israel feeling which is very strong,” he said. “But this is our heritage, irrespective of whether we are Jewish, Muslim or Christian, and we have to protect it.”

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