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Finding a Synagogue in Karachi

By Karachi Walla

Unthinkable. Have you ever considered being friends with a Jew. Visiting a Synangogue from inside. That too, in Karachi. The construction of Magain Shalome Synagogue epitomized good old Karachi’s diversity and tolerance. Its destruction epitomized parochialism and intolernace prevalent now. The sense of loss is not only felt by once Karachite jews but by many others as evident by blog posts and flickr comments on the picture of the synagoue. The sense of loss becomes unbearable when you see the trash which has been put up in place of the synagogue.

Jews lived mainly in the Ranchor Line and Ramswami areas in Karachi and there were around 2500 Jews at the time of the partition. They were part of the larger Ben-e- Israel group of the British India. The synagoue was built to cater to this small but active community. Some accounts suggest that it was bulit by Shalome Solomon Umerdekar and his son Gershone Solomon (Encyclopedia of the Jewish Diaspora ) while others suggest that it was built by Solomon David, a surveyor for the Karachi Municipality towards the end of 18th century. It is evident that the community despite the small number was vibrant and formed number of associations to oversee welfare and social activities of the group. The Young Man’s Jewish Association, Karachi Bene Israel Relief Fund and Karachi Jewish syndicate were few such associations but they disappeared one by one as the exodus continued due to increasing tensions between Israel and the muslim world. The synagogue was the last active forum which was demolished to pave way for a distasteful commercial plaza in late 80′s. A Jewish graveyard in Mewashah is the last surviving edifice along with few signs here and there (such as David’s star on Merewether tower). Mr. Haroon Haider has done a commendable job for digging up some documents from the days the synagogue was active. Please see the entry here.

Magain Shalome was built at the corner of Jamila Street and Nishtar Road. Karachi Walla took this journey on a Saturday morning. Drive to NJV school on M.A. Jinnah road if you are coming from Merewether Tower. Turn left on Jamila Street (right after NJV School). The street has many shops that sell motorcycle and car accessories. Make a stop at next crossroad. There is a landmark you should not miss. A small building (painted bright yellow for some reason) which was used as a mitra mandal for Maharashtrans. It is yet another reminder of the diversity which Karachi enjoyed. Karachi had a population of around 3,000 Maharashtrans in 1947 but they too fled after partition. Have a sip of tea at the dhabba close by. A little further is Hassanli Hoti Market which was constructed in 1926. Its pillars and elegant front reminds us that the area has seen good days. Say hello to the shopkeepers who are waiting to start the day. Move further in the same direction away from M. A. Jinnah road. At the next crossroad is a commercial building where the synagogue stood. The area is littered with filth and dirt and jampacked during the day. A fitting landscape for a tragedy.

Majority of Karachi Jews live in Ramle, Israel now. They have built a synagogue in rememberance of Karachi synagogue. They call it Magain Shalome.

Photo/Document Credits:

Haroon Haider:

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19 Responses to "Finding a Synagogue in Karachi"

  1. hiob Germany Internet Explorer Windows says:

    The arab religion has transported their hatred and inferiority complex towards jews into your hearts. What a decrepit ideology the arab god and his agent has sent you. Jews never did anything bad to the people of the ISC (Indian Subcontinent). But your arab religion has made you into hate-filled irrational quislings and zombies. No chance that you will come out of it at this rate.

  2. Dr Rasheed S Azam United States Internet Explorer Windows says:

    You cant go on blaming jews for your problems. Your ignorance may be the biggest problem. Have you ever heard that the Holy Prophet (saw)said that a time will come when his ummah would become like jews (in behaviour)and umma’s mullas would be worst creature on earth? Moslims are paying for their own mistakes. Pray that they turn to God for help and look for Hazrat Eesa and Mahdi alaihisslam to save you!

  3. [...] Finding a Synagogue in Karachi [...]

  4. imran Pakistan Google Chrome Windows says:

    I dont think Islam has any problem with jews living on earth. I donot know of any such teachings, actually places of worships should be respected irrespective of which party they belong to. Current muslim hatred is probably due to stupid Israeli policies.

  5. lady Guinevere United States Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    This article reminds me of a place called Carpentras, France. There is a Synagogue there that is the oldest one in France and was only last deserted during the Spanish inquisition. Only recently, about 20 years ago, the town of Carpentras restored it for the local jewelry as a historical treasure. Too bad that nothing remains of the synagogue in Karachi. “Buildings” of religious worship never hurt anyone!

    Lady Guinevere

  6. leciat United States Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    “Current muslim hatred is probably due to stupid Israeli policies”

    by your logic all ignorant infidels should hate all muslims because of the stupid “muslim world” policies of oppression of women

  7. RH United Kingdom Google Chrome Windows says:

    hiob, you are a troll.

  8. hiob Germany Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    to RH

    I tell the facts as they are and that is what you don’t like because these facts unmistakably expose islam as a totalitarian-fascist, arab-imperialist, backward-oriented, misogynic-machoist ideology.

    Muslims are mostly scared of their own fellow muslims. Hence every muslim tries to prove and show off his “strong” muslim-ness by refusing to take a crical honest look at islam’s defects and deficiencies. Islam “succeeds” by creating this climate of fear and denunciation among muslims which has become so rampant in all muslim societies. Your calling me a troll is also a result of this islamic climate.

  9. Lady Guinevere United States Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Thank you R.H.! Hiob is a bit full of himself now isn’t he! Sort of a “tout”, when it comes to “religiosity”!

    Lady Guinevere

  10. hiob Germany Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    to lady G.

    I react to the heinous religiosity that is being foisted upon human beings (both arabs and non-arabs) by islam and its agents and quislings. The other religions (which too have their own defects and problems) are far less rabid and less violent.

  11. M.Schaukat United Kingdom Opera Mini Unknow Os says:

    It is true that the jews from karachi abandoned Pakistan, it was not because Jews were not accepted in Pakistan, rather in quest of a better living and better life. Pakistanese should not be blamed for the exodus.

  12. hiob Germany Internet Explorer Windows says:

    to M. Shaukat

    Pakistanis never have and never will have the decency and courage to own up to their evil or foolish deeds (most of which are a result of their religion, an imperialist totalitarian ideology exported from Arabia and of which they are fervent quislings).

  13. I endorse the views of The Lady Guinevere. The Synagogue in Karachi and the Jain Hindu Temple (close to my Lahore High Court Public Interest Office of the Lawfirm: Geoffrey and Khitran) should be restored and rehabbed. I will file a Writ to that effect early in Nov. 2011 inshawLAW. In civilized countries such cudgels are taken up by Attorneys general and/or advocates general; here they are sonambulant and indifferent and thoroughly deep-pocket oddities.

    I recall an undisputed story, wherein our Holy Prophet MOHUMMED (pbuh) declared that a mosque does not belong to the king, or any person, it belongs to God Almighty and is House of God, christians (and by extension other religions followers) were entitled and welcome to dance and play music and worship there as they do.

    It is true that the first overseas mosque during the lifetime of our Holy Prophet was constructed in the presentday Kerala Province.

    Since hiob frequently insists upon hiob-hiobing, may I point ought the Barbari Mosque to him. Where was hiob?

  14. hiob Germany Internet Explorer Windows says:

    to slarpore

    What about restoring the hindu component in population in Pakistan as before August 1947? Dare you say that in Pakistan? Restoring some temple or synagogue is not enough.

    The babari mosque represents islamic arabic turkish imperialism, racism and fascism in India. In fact all mosques in India do that. They represent the insults and injuries which islamic imperialism has inflicted upon the non-arabs and non-muslims. Indians don’t need to import any god-concept from arabs.

  15. It is advisable that if your posts are added some relative pictures which will make your blog more fantastic.

  16. Hello Everybody,

    I am researching on The Diaspora (Jews) in Pakistan. If you have information on the subject and the background of the Jews who have been living in Pakistan, I shall be very grateful to you for provision of information.


    Syed Haroon Haider Gilani

  17. T United Kingdom Internet Explorer Windows says:

    Seriously Hiob, get a life. Until the late 40′s Jews and Muslims lived in relative harmony and people tend to have issues with Isreal’s policies not Jews per se, theres a difference. Pakistan until the 70s was secular and in the wider Muslim world in Iran there is the biggest Jewish population outside Israel in the region. Isreal offered Irananian Jews $60,000 per family to move to Isreal but the Iranian Jews had been in the region since Cyrus the Great and didnt want to leave home. Stop looking for the negatives and open your eyes

    I guess being from Germany you would know a thing or two about racism and fascism, funny that you accuse others of being so but the comments you make are racist by saying mosques are a form of insult. Not really doing much to challenge stereotypes are you? And please, other religions being far less violent? There are countless incidents of violence caused by other religions and by the non religious. Sadly Pakistan today has been over run by very ignorant people, that are using their religion as a channel of their bigotry, but there are plenty more people who do not do that. Does Germany have shrines and museums to every single minority group or only the ones they tried to exterminate? No one can change the past but this article tried to make amends for the future, maybe you should do the same because frankly your views make you look like an idiot.

  18. yasmin eliaz Israel Internet Explorer Windows says:

    How lovely was it once in pakistan ha…. im jewish from israel, and very glad to read what u wrote. inshallah one day we will come to ur country and u will be allowed to come over…

  19. Humanitarean Pakistan Safari  Android 4.0.4 A10 Build/IMM76D says:

    Hi there all one thing I would like to say that Islam is not only the Arabic relegion it is beyond these fences which provides an equal apportunity beyond sexes with pacification leading towards future lives.

    Secondly, when comparing Jewish empire to of Muslim world is like comparing sand grain to the mountain upon proclative successions.

    Although I felt sorry over Jewish community hilderth in Karachi but, we cannot forget what is happening in Hamas. Thousands of Muslims detoriated grudgely by israelean troops.

    So stand by this confrontation of Jews policy against Hamas structure.

    One thing all Jews must know that Allah, which have promised the land is still wasn’t confined by this small so called community and never shall be.

    If I m wrong, then ask you rabbis over this debate.

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