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Meet Fishel Benkhald. My wife and I met him over Twitter late last year, and, because I am also a Jew, I was very interested in his story. We have become “friends” through social media.
Fishel lives in Karachi, Pakistan, and is considered to be the last Jewish citizen in Pakistan, a country of 187 million people. He has made it his mission to be a voice for Pakistani minorities. Over Twitter direct message, he told me (all quotes unedited, to preserve his spelling and grammar):
Yes I tweet&speak with people in support of Christians,Hindus,and muslim minority of Ahmadia&Shia muslims.
I also go&attend vigils for them
He has also taken it upon himself to help care for and maintain the Jewish section of a cemetery in Karachi.
Chand Arif, the cemetery’s self-appointed caretaker…says the rundown graveyard, which has not been visited by relatives of the dead for decades, is at risk of encroachment. Encircling what is known locally as the “Israel compound” is the Mewa Shah burial district that – in this sprawling megacity of 20 million – is running out of space for the dead.
Arif, his extended family and several goats have been squatting on the land for two generations. “There are people who want to come over and make this a Muslim graveyard,” he said. “They tell us we will give you money to give this area to us.”
Again, over Twitter direct message, Fishel told me:
I tried to get volunteers to come&clean the Jewish cemetery,But they r afraid to come because the cemetery is located in a notorious neighborhood of Karachi called Liari/Layari its know for gang wars,criminals&abductions.
So volunteers say they will come but they never show up for the cleaning.
Also Im making a list of the tombstones to publish it when its done,this will help find the the living relatives of the Jews who r burried in the cemetery
Plus USA Congressman Lee Zeldin took note of the The Gardian artcle which mentioned me&my campaign for the cemetery. Zeldin wrote to Pakistani ambassador for assurance on cemetery the news is on Haaretz
As you might imagine, being the last Jew in a Muslim country like Pakistan has caused him a lot of grief and trouble, and exposed him to an increasing amount of danger. As a matter of safety, Fishel uses the voice recorder on his phone to capture audio he thinks he might need later. On March 4, 2015, he recorded himself getting beaten by 2-4 men.
I was invited for a face to face debate by a Pakistani muslim whom I met over twitter to debate my stance that non-muslim Pakistani’s should be allowed to be president.
The debate got heated and cursing started and I recorded it.
I apologize for the cursing it happened as a result of me getting cursed.
After the attack, Fishel was arrested. Again, over Twitter Direct Message:
I was beaten on early morning Wed 4/Mar till now my right eye seeing blurry&double even I went though a small surgery to correct it.
After I got beaten I was detained,blind folded,handcuffed&handed over to Peramilitary force Rangers they investigated me for 17houres. They asked me why certified twitter accounts of IDF,Israeli embassies&other following me. They took prints of my DM’s&tweets. I was blindfolded&handcuffed for 17hours&they said Im RAW,Mossad or CIA but for sure it is not true&they found no such thing to prove it
They didn’t let me call my brother&they were worrying about me&looking for me in hospitals&morgues.
I still dont know what was my crime &why I was detained for 17houre like a dangerous criminal without any charge,Am I not a human like?
Any way they later called my brother&made him sign a paper which said something like “I wont do what I was doing” I dont know what it legally means
On Tuesday night, Fishel tweeted this:
— Fishel Benkhald (@Jew_Pakistani) March 31, 2015
Being the last Jew in Pakistan is very dangerous business, and I worry for his safety — and for his life — at this point. There is nothing I or any of us can do for Fishel beyond letting the world know his story and speaking out. Social media is a great way to share stories like this, and it is something we all need to do whenever possible.
I asked Fishel what does he want Ricochet readers to know about him most of all.
I need my fundamental freedom of religion to follow Judaism of my mom instead Islam from my father side who was a loving father but a secular-minded nonobservant-muslim