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      Pakistani Jew Tries to Restore Karachi Community

      Man who recently discovered his maternal Jewish roots petitions Pakistani courts to have synagogue built and restore Jewish graves.
      By Ari Yashar
      First Publish: 1/13/2014, 12:28 PM

      Islamic protests in Pakistan (file)
      Islamic protests in Pakistan (file)
      Reuters

      A campaign has been launched to restore the Jewish community of Karachi in Pakistan. A young member of the tiny persecuted Jewish community has turned to the courts, asking for the re-establishment of a synagogue and the restoration of a Jewish cemetery in the city.

      The Jewish community has largely fled Pakistan, becoming refugees in Israel, India and the West, due to the rampant local anti-Semitism and raging Islamic fundamentalism. Terror groups such as Al Qaeda and Taliban have plagued the country, as demonstrated in the death of a 15-year-old who tried to stop a suicide bomber from blowing up his school.

      Nevertheless, Fishel Bhenkhald has decided to fight to return a Jewish presence to Pakistan.

      Bhenkhald's Jewish maternal grandparents came to Pakistan from Iran, and registered their daughter (Bhenkhald's mother) as a Muslim to protect her. After rediscovering his Jewish roots, the son of a Muslim father is devoted to "claiming Jewish rights in Pakistan," reports The Jewish Chronicle.

      Under the law, Bhenkhald faces a challenge changing his status from Muslim to Jew. "Pakistani law does not allow its citizens who are registered as Muslims to change their religious status. To do so is punishable under Sharia law," commented Bhenkhald.

      Nevertheless, he has petitioned courts to restore the Jewish synagogue and cemetery. The former synagogue of Karachi, Magen Shalom, was demolished in 1988 and replaced by a shopping and residential plaza under the Islamist rule of dictator Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq.

      “Call me a dreamer, but if my drive to clean the Jewish graves goes on as intended it could result in cutting through the red-tape of city government to get legal permission to build a small synagogue," argued Bhenkhald.

      The Jew intends to clean the graves “first with my own hands, equipped with nothing but a spade and elbow grease. I am also using Twitter to ask for volunteers in Pakistan to help me.”

      Bhenkhald additionally is publicly advocating a relationship between Pakistan and Israel, calls which have led to opposition from the government and locals.