Fishel Ben-Khald, 34, one of the few Jews living in Pakistan, arrived in Israel last week for a visit that was approved by Pakistani authorities.
Not only does Pakistan not maintain diplomatic ties with Israel and votes against Israel in all UN votes, Pakistani passports bear the words: “This passport is valid for all countries of the world except for Israel.”
Ben-Khald traveled to Israel with an official American delegation that included another Pakistani, a Muslim. Both are residents of the capital, Islamabad, Ynet reported.
The other members of the delegation were Muslim-Americans of Pakistani descent. The visit was initiated by the “Sharaka” program (partnership in Arabic), which was established by young Israelis and Muslims following the signing of the Abraham Accords.
Delegation members met, among others, President Issac Herzog, and visited Yad Vashem and Har HaBayis. They met with Knesset members, members of the Druze community in Daliyat al-Carmel, and visited Nazareth and the Golan Heights.
“Sharaka was honored to bring a delegation of Muslims and Sikhs from southeast Asia including the first Pakistani Jew allowed to travel to Israel to visit Israeli President Issac Herzog,” the organization stated. “The delegates spoke to the President about their efforts to develop relationships with Israel.”
Ben-Khald, who maintains a Twitter account called Jew Pakistani, spoke to Ynet about what it’s like to be a Jew in Pakistan. “As far as I know, there are only a few Jews in Pakistan. There are no active shuls, the last one was destroyed in the 1980s. It’s possible to obtain kosher food from some of the products that Pakistan exports that are certified as kosher by a Rav who comes to Pakistan for that purpose.”
Ben-Khald works, among other jobs, as an engineer in the kosher food manufacturing industry in Pakistan and serves as a mashgiach for Pakistani food manufacturers.
In past interviews, Ben-Khald spoke about the difficulties of living as a Jew in a country rife with anti-Semitism. “Due to anti-Semitism, I don’t reveal my identity to 99% of the people I’m in contact with,” he said. “When I wear a kippah, I hide it with a baseball cap. In general, I feel safe – as long as people don’t know I’m Jewish.”
Ben-Khald is active in protecting Jewish heritage sites throughout Pakistan, including the Karachi Jewish Cemetery. As for Israeli-Pakistani relations, he said that “there are many forces in Pakistan that are pulling in the positive direction of the Abrahamic Accords. Admittedly this is not a majority, but I believe that is the direction. I am optimistic and believe that Israel and Pakistan will reach a normalization agreement.”
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)