Situated adjacent to Islamabad, Rawalpindi is currently Pakistan’s fourth-largest city. It was also once home to a thriving Jewish community, of which only an abandoned synagogue remains, as Saif Tahir writes:
The history of Jews in Rawalpindi [begins in] 1839, when many Jewish families from [the Persian city of] Mashhad fled to [escape] persecution and settled in various parts of the subcontinent, including Peshawar and Rawalpindi. . . . According to the 1901 census and the Rawalpindi Gazette, the Mashhadi Jews were thriving [in the city at the beginning of the century]. However, after partition [in 1947], many families migrated to Mumbai and the rest left gradually in the late 1960s. . . .
The stunning building once used [by these Jews] as a synagogue and assembly hall is now in shambles. It is occupied by three families who refuse to talk to visitors and discourage them from looking inside. . . .
The locals are resistant to talking about the [erstwhile Jewish] community—some because of hatred, and some because of fear. . . . However, an old resident who was born in the neighborhood in the late 1930s said something astonishing: “There were Jews living in the city till the late 1990s. Although the family moved to some other city, they still come and visit these streets.”