If you was to ask me what would be in a list of the ultimate acts of righteous Chutzpah then that list would most certainly include the name of one Fishel Bhenkhald. Mr Bhenkhald is attempting to do what to many would be suicidally impossible and that is to re-establish the historic Jewish presence in one of the world’s premier Islamic shitholes, Pakistan.
Mr Bhenkhald, whose Jewish family came from Iran during the days of the British Raj in India but who later, for quite obvious safety and security reasons registered their children as Muslim. Mr Bhenkhald found out that he was of Jewish descent and has set about acknowledging that and wants to restore a Jewish cemetery and also re-establish a synagogue in Pakistan.
He is even trying to register with the Pakistani government as a Jew, despite being previously registered as a Muslim and knowing of the horrendous Shariah punishments in place for those who convert out of Islam.
All of what Mr Bhenkhald has done truly qualifies as having balls of steel. Please follow Mr Bhenkhald on Twitter ( @Jew_Pakistani )and give him your support because this is a person who truly deserves it. No matter what religion you are or even if you have no religion then please support Mr Bhenkhald, he is doing something very brave in a nation that can only be described as a festering sore on the face of humanity.
For some background on this story please see this report by Bernard Josephs of the London Jewish Chronicle from January 2014. Many people will already be aware of the story of Fishel Bhenkhald but for those who are not then let his story be an inspiration to all those who speak up for religious freedom in places where religious freedom is forbidden.
The Jewish Chronicle said:
“A campaign to persuade Pakistani authorities to permit the re-establishment of a synagogue and the refurbishment of a derelict Jewish cemetery in Karachi has been launched by a young member of the country’s dwindling and beleaguered Jewish community.
Virulent antisemitism fuelled by widespread hostility towards Israel and Islamic fundamentalism has seen an exodus of nearly all Jews from the country, most of them seeking refuge in Israel, India and the West.
However, Fishel Bhenkhald’s Jewish maternal grandparents, who immigrated from Iran during the British Raj, decided to remain. Fearing for the safety of their child (Mr Bhenkhald’s mother), they registered her as a Muslim.
Now 27, Mr Bhenkhald, whose father was a humanist-minded Muslim, has rediscovered his Jewish roots and is devoting himself to “claiming Jewish rights in Pakistan”.
He has petitioned Pakistani courts for legal approval to have a shul built and is asking for support for his plan to work on the Jewish cemetery in Karachi.
The city’s former synagogue, Magen Shalom, was demolished in 1988, during the Islamist dictatorship of Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq. It was replaced by a shopping and residential plaza.
“Call me a dreamer,” Mr Bhenkhald said, “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.”
He will 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.” Despite hostility in the press and from the authorities, he continues to publicly advocate a relationship between Pakistan and Israel.
He also faces problems in changing his status as a Muslim to that of a 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,” said Mr Bhenkhald.”
I would like to end this piece by wishing Mr Bhenkhald a future of freedom and security as it cannot be easy being a Jew in a place like Pakistan, where it is not even easy to be a Hindu or a Sikh or a Christian or an Ahmediyya Muslim.
Original story from Jewish Chronicle