This is the rarest case of the rare. A Jew from Pakistan fought against the odds to visit the Western Wall, the Jewish community’s holiest site. He was accompanied by a group of Pakistani-Americans and now the visit has created an uproar in the Muslim nation

Pakistani Jew Fishel BenKhald recently traveled to Israel with 15 Pakistani-Americans. Image Courtesy: @Jew_Pakistani/Twitter

Fishel BenKhald couldn’t believe his eyes when he found himself praying outside the Western Wall, the revered prayer site of Jews in Jerusalem. He fought for many years to make a trip to the holy city. What stopped him? The country he comes from.

Fishel is one of the few Jews in Pakistan, where every passport reads: This passport is valid for all countries in the world except Israel.

He visited Israel in May with a rare group – about 15 Pakistani-Americans. Most of them traveled with their American passport.

The trip was organized by an activist group of American Muslim women and sponsored by an Israeli organization, seeking to expand the nation’s ties with Muslim-majority countries, reports NPR.

The story of Fishel Ben Khald

Fishel was born to an Iranian-Jewish mother and a Muslim father in Karachi in 1987. He was registered as a Muslim at birth but considers himself Jewish. His real name is Faisal, but in 2014 he adopted his Yiddish first name, Fishel.

Fishel is a civil engineer and works at a kosher certification agency. He is fighting to save the Bani Israel cemetery, the only Jewish cemetery in Karachi, which is in ruins. However, his biggest struggle so far has been getting registered as a Jew in Pakistan and then traveling to Israel with that same passport, reports The footprint.

The results of the visit

Fishel’s visit to Israel caused a stir in Pakistan. A Pakistani state television talk show host was on the trip. He was fired on May 30.

However, Imran Khan’s government was aware of the trip and had approved Fishel’s trip, according to the delegation organizer.

On the same day, the Pakistani Senate passed a resolution confirming its position against Israel. “The resolution, proposed by Senator Mushtaq Ahmad, condemning the recent atrocities and violence by Israeli forces against innocent pilgrims and worshipers of Al-Aqsa Mosque and the decades-old blockade of Gaza by Israeli forces, has passed unanimously by the Upper House,” he wrote on Twitter.

There is a call to ban the American Council for the Empowerment of Muslim and Multifaith Women, which organized the trip, reports NPR.

Anger grew in Pakistan after Israeli President Isaac Herzog spoke of meeting the Pakistani and Pakistani American delegation. “It was an amazing experience. We have never had such a far-reaching group of Pakistani expats,” he said at the World Economic Forum held recently in Davos, Switzerland.

Jews in Pakistan

In a nation of 220 million, Jews number a handful – around 200. Most of them have adopted Muslim identities to blend in.

Fishel in conversation with The Times of Israel recalled how his family spent a lot of time outside Pakistan. He also did the same for a long time. “Anti-Semitism is the reason,” he said. The Pakistani government and media are “constantly blaming everything wrong on an imaginary Jewish/Israeli conspiracy,” he said.

Pakistan once had a small, thriving community. At the start of the 20th century, there were 2,500 Jews in the country, mostly those who emigrated from Iraq. They lived in Karachi, Quetta, Rawalpindi and Lahore.

However, in 1988, the historic Magain Shalome Synagogue in Karachi was demolished, which became a focal point of protests against Israel. A majority of Jews left the country and migrated to India or Israel around this time.

Anger against Israel

Pakistan is a supporter of an independent state for Palestine and refuses to have ties with Israel. This is a position that most Muslim-majority countries take. However, in 2020, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain signed the historic Abraham Accords to maintain and strengthen peace in the Middle East. Morocco and Sudan have joined the agreement brokered by the United States.

While Pakistan and Israel have held security dialogues in the past and their foreign ministers met with publicity in 2005, there are no signs that the Muslim country is joining the pact.

Fawad Chaudhry, the former information minister under Imran Khan’s government, said NPR“Our policy is absolutely no recognition or engagement with Israel until the establishment of the State of Palestine.”

With contributions from agencies

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