Fishel Benkhald has one wish from the Pakistani government: To let him travel to Israel.
Benkhald, one of the few remaining Jews still living in Karachi, penned an op-ed on Tuesday printed in the Pakistani Daily Times: “I’m Jewish and Pakistani... let me go to Israel.”
The activist said that the Pakistani constitution should provide him with the freedom to practice his religion – but it doesn’t.
“Being a practicing Jewish man, I want the freedom to perform my religious duties, a right granted to me and other minorities in the country by the constitution,” Benkhald wrote. “However, the reality is that my Pakistani passport states that ‘this passport is valid for all countries of the world, except Israel.’”
He wondered how Pakistan can justify “prohibiting not only Jews, but Pakistani Christians, Messianic Jews, and even Muslims from traveling to Jerusalem?”
Benkhald told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday that while he is proud of his identity, it is something he doesn’t share with most of his acquaintances.
“At the neighborhood and at work, yes, I keep it a secret,” he said. “It’s like being Spider-Man,” he joked. “To only expose oneself as a Jew when a greater good [can] be achieved.”
Several estimates put the number of Jews remaining in Pakistan anywhere between 200 and 800. Like many Muslim-majority countries, Pakistan has no diplomatic or trade ties with Israel. Citizens of countries including Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and many others officially bar their citizens from entering Israel. Some, like Malaysia, allow a limited quota of Christian pilgrims to apply for a special visa.