The Forgotten Jews of Rawalpindi

Feb. 25 2016

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.”

Read more at Express Tribune

More about: Anti-Semitism, Architecture, History & Ideas, Pakistan, Pakistani Jewry, Persian Jewry


Syria’s Druze Uprising, and What It Means for the Region

When the Arab Spring came to Syria in 2011, the Druze for the most part remained loyal to the regime—which has generally depended on the support of religious minorities such as the Druze and thus afforded them a modicum of protection. But in the past several weeks that has changed, with sustained anti-government protests in the Druze-dominated southwestern province of Suwayda. Ehud Yaari evaluates the implications of this shift:

The disillusionment of the Druze with Bashar al-Assad, their suspicion of militias backed by Iran and Hizballah on the outskirts of their region, and growing economic hardships are fanning the flames of revolt. In Syrian Druze circles, there is now open discussion of “self-rule,” for example replacing government offices and services with local Druze alternative bodies.

Is there a politically acceptable way to assist the Druze and prevent the regime from the violent reoccupation of Jebel al-Druze, [as they call the area in which they live]? The answer is yes. It would require Jordan to open a short humanitarian corridor through the village of al-Anat, the southernmost point of the Druze community, less than three kilometers from the Syrian-Jordanian border.

Setting up a corridor to the Druze would require a broad consensus among Western and Gulf Arab states, which have currently suspended the process of normalization with Assad. . . . The cost of such an operation would not be high compared to the humanitarian corridors currently operating in northern Syria. It could be developed in stages, and perhaps ultimately include, if necessary, providing the Druze with weapons to defend their territory. A quick reminder: during the Islamic State attack on Suwayda province in 2018, the Druze demonstrated an ability to assemble close to 50,000 militia men almost overnight.

Read more at Jerusalem Strategic Tribune

More about: Druze, Iran, Israeli Security, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy