Jewish trust goes to court to take back demolished Karachi synagogue land

Published: March 18, 2014

This photo of the interior of the Magen Shalom synagogue on Nishtar Road was provided by Diana Reuben to the book, 'Sindh: Past glory, present nostalgia'. PHOTO: FILE

KARACHI: A Jewish welfare body has gone to court to try to preserve the land of the Magen Shalom Synagogue where a shopping mall was built after the place of worship was demolished in the 1980s, The Express Tribune has learnt.

The Bene Israel Trust has submitted an application to the Sindh High Court with the request that it take control of the property so it can maintain the land of the place of worship. (The Bene Israeli community was made of the Jews who were traditionally found in Konkan, roughly the coastal region from Goa to Karachi).

The trust’s attorney has informed the court that there used to be a synagogue on survey No. RC-3, measuring 1,190 square yards, located in the Ranchore Line Quarters. It was built in 1893, according to independent sources. The trust’s application says it was built for the sole purpose and object of performing worship, which is a right of the members of a minority community. It has been replaced by a Khurrum Shopping Mall.

At one point, the Court of the Judicial Commissioner of Sindh officially recognised the estate and declared that one of the Jewish community’s last known surviving members, Ephraim Joseph, would manage the property of the trust and operate its account in Grindlays Bank.

Joseph was appointed administrator but died on May 12, 1987. After his death, his sister, R. Rachel Joseph, became the last known survivor of the community in the country. She went to the court of an additional district and sessions judge, asking it to declare her the new administrator as she wanted to manage and run the affairs of the property of the synagogue.

According to the trust, in its application to the SHC, the sessions court had ruled in Ms Rachel’s favour and she was allowed to manage the synagogue’s property. However, the trust’s lawyer argued, she subsequently allowed for construction to take place there and this, says the trust, is in alleged violation of the law.

That law is the Protection of Communal Properties of Minorities Ordinance, 2001. Ms Rachel would have had to, under Section 3(b), acquire a no-objection certificate from the federal government if she wanted to sell or transfer the property belonging to the minority. Now the trust is relying on Section 2(b), which as its attorney argued, says that the synagogue’s property must be protected and preserved. “On the synagogue property now has been built a commercial shopping mall, which is a violation of the provisions of the ordinance that provides for protecting and preserving the places of worship of minority communities,” the attorney argued. The trust has requested the court to appoint its officer (Nazir) to take over the property so that it can be protected and preserved. The court has also been requested to instruct the Nazir to obtain the record of the tenancy to ensure that the money generated from it is used for the benefit of the community.

When the high court took up the matter, however, the lawyers for the provincial and local governments were not present. The bench has issued notices to the parties concerned to appear with their comments on the current status of the property and its tenancy among other details.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 18th, 2014.

Reader Comments (43)

  • Pakistani Majority
    Mar 18, 2014 - 2:03AM

    Sure after the European Jews return all of Palestinian land…

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  • Mar 18, 2014 - 2:49AM

    Yes, take the land back and build a massive beautiful synagogue complete with best Jewish School in world.

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  • Azmat Khan
    Mar 18, 2014 - 2:54AM

    Very good.I hope the property would go to it’s genuine owners.The Jewish community is a peace loving minority of our country.Their rights must be protected.

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  • ali
    Mar 18, 2014 - 3:55AM

    wonderful… jews in pakistan should come out and raise their voices with full force.. enough is enough… we all know that there are few jews that live here but they are just afraid … i as a muslim karachiite whole-heartedly support their movement.. if any jew is reading this …plz raise ur voice .. its about your rights… pakistan was made for religious minorities.. its your country as well as its mine .. own it.. and i promise we will not disappoint you! peace.

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  • John
    Mar 18, 2014 - 4:42AM

    Give them their land back with no Ifs and Buts.And punish those who set a temple in larkana on fire.Enough with this bigotry.Recommend

  • leo
    Mar 18, 2014 - 5:26AM

    We should respect all places of worship

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  • farhan
    Mar 18, 2014 - 7:04AM

    Shame on us caretakers of all faiths. We can’t even protect a couple of Jews. ..how scared are we !

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  • Yahudi Arabia
    Mar 18, 2014 - 7:29AM

    What a shameful act by land mafia.

    It should be returned to Jewish people.

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  • zog
    Mar 18, 2014 - 9:07AM

    How very sad the only synagogue in pakistan was destroyed for a shopping mall…

    There is no islam left in this country….

    I hope the court returns the land to the trust and a new synagogue is built there…

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  • Necromancer
    Mar 18, 2014 - 9:30AM

    There are Jews in Pakistan………:P

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  • kafka
    Mar 18, 2014 - 9:55AM

    Are there any jews left in Pakistan?

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  • Lawyer
    Mar 18, 2014 - 10:13AM

    Im going to Tel Aviv court to ask for Palestinian land back.

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  • M Khan
    Mar 18, 2014 - 10:22AM

    The conflict is with State of Israel, not Jews around the world, It’s pretty easy for me to see Jewish Welfare Body is fair in it’s demands, however, It’s Pakistan, and getting the land back has never been easy, for any one, poor, orphans etc. all standing in same line with Jew community.

    For viewership of Tribune, there is quite a huge number of immigrants in Israel from Pakistan. and there’s a very good written by some Karachi author, ‘Jis ko dil kehte hain’ and chapter 1, highlights some of the good historic perspective related to this story. Recommended!

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  • JRR
    Mar 18, 2014 - 10:51AM

    The place should be handed over to the Jewish community if they are the genuine owners. Plus the government should compensate the existing mall owners / shop keepers as well.

    This will set a good precedent and will throw the ball back to the Jewish community world wide (you know what i mean…..). As its said, first be fair to others and then expect fairness…

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  • Ashraf P
    Mar 18, 2014 - 10:57AM

    Just a Yehudi Conspiracy, I tell you !!

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  • lmao
    Mar 18, 2014 - 11:11AM

    It’s ok for Muslims in majority to demolish temples and synagogues but if a mosque is demolished then it’s a attack on Muslims. How is this hypocrisy allowed and accepted is beyond me. Could the sensible Muslims of the world please stand up to this bigotry.

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  • Hamza
    Mar 18, 2014 - 11:13AM

    The caretaker Ms. Rachel heself allowed for construction to take place there, as mentioned in the news above.

    I completely agree with JRR’s comment above.
    Respect for everybody.

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  • Jalbani Baloch
    Mar 18, 2014 - 12:28PM

    Let the court decide on the matter, based on the evidences that will be provided to the court. Our personal expressions of sorrows or sympathies will not generate any good except hatred for this small section of minority people.

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  • Spock
    Mar 18, 2014 - 12:29PM

    @Pakistani Majority:
    Very rich coming from someone who is sitting on someone else’s land way bigger than palestine and israel put together.

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  • Questioner
    Mar 18, 2014 - 12:47PM

    Positive move and as @Dipak said I hope they get the land back and make good use of it.
    Quite disappointed to hear ones making connection with Palestinian land.

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  • bash gul
    Mar 18, 2014 - 1:03PM

    How many mosques are actually built on legal land in Karachi?

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  • Zog
    Mar 18, 2014 - 1:17PM

    I am so proud of you all Pakistanis.

    So proud that the majority of comments here in favour of minority rights

    It warmed my heart to see we are not all gun totting minority / women hating jahils…

    Well done Pakistanis well done

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  • Mar 18, 2014 - 2:32PM

    @lmao:
    Who says it’s “OK for Muslims to demolish temples”? Learn to read

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  • Jameel ur Rasheed
    Mar 18, 2014 - 2:41PM

    Modern day Pakistan Air Force was fathered by a Polish Jew who migrated to a camp in Karachi to survive Hitler atrocities. Those who are comparing the situation with that of Israel and Palestine, if we are to act just like what they are doing, there is no difference between us and them. The Court must not only return the property, but also award the money for the synagogue to be rebuilt, if so desired.

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  • Akram
    Mar 18, 2014 - 2:44PM

    @zog
    Please read the article carefully. Rachel, the trust’s Jewish administrator had the shopping plaza built.

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  • Mar 18, 2014 - 3:36PM

    @Lawyer:
    They will put you in prison for the rest of your life.Recommend

  • Moazzam Ali
    Mar 18, 2014 - 4:40PM

    This reflects an alarming situation that how powerful land mafia elements in this city of darkness are that even minorities have not been spared. They have grabbed the properties of thousands of civilians and their cases are pending for decision in the courts for several years. All the illegal buildings constructed in similar manner should be demolished immediately and land encroachers should be punished.

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  • Rao
    Mar 18, 2014 - 6:44PM

    @Lawyer:

    Why don’t you go to court in Pakistan to seek justice for minorities like Hindus, Christians, Parsees, Ahmadis, etc etc. Oh I forgot, Shias too!Recommend

  • Candid1
    Mar 18, 2014 - 7:15PM

    @Rao:
    Lawyer will do that when you go to an Indian court and get an order to end Indian occupation of Kashmir.

    Recommend

  • Zog
    Mar 18, 2014 - 8:19PM

    @Akram:
    Let’s see what the evidence / court adjudicates….

    Many people have apparently handed over their plots to developers without their knowledge

    Let the law take its courseRecommend

  • Moiz Omar
    Mar 19, 2014 - 12:41AM

    @Spock:
    I don’t agree with Pakistani Majority, but who’s land is he sitting on? You think Pakistan is Indian land? We are a separate country now. Get over it.

    Recommend

  • booboo
    Mar 19, 2014 - 2:12AM

    @Candid1 – ” Lawyer will do that when you go to an Indian court and get an order to end Indian occupation of Kashmir.”

    Rao will do that when you go to Pakistani court and get an order to end Pakistani occupation in Baluchistan, NWFP etc.

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  • Reason
    Mar 19, 2014 - 3:10AM

    The Jewish community should be given the land back.

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  • Reason
    Mar 19, 2014 - 3:20AM

    The synagogue in all its glory should be rebuilt in the area. That’s the least the country can do after treating the minorities as second class citizens and forcing many to leave.

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  • David Salmon
    Mar 19, 2014 - 3:34AM

    D@Zog:
    Yes, let’s see the evidence. The trustee reportedly agreed to the deal. Did she? What was received in return for the Jewish community? Was her decision free and uncoerced? Who benefited?

    If an aging lady was manipulated or forced into an agreement benefiting the land mafia, then whatever Jewish community trust may exist should receive recompense. And, if none, the money should be devoted to preservation of minority places of worship, including synagogues, temples, gurdwaras, and churches.

    imho,

    another lawyer

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  • Jayant
    Mar 19, 2014 - 12:07PM

    Some comments here by Pakistanis give an idea that Pakistan is ” THEKEDAR” of muslims across the world ! yeah but self appointed “MUKHIYA” of the Ummah, in reality no one really cares !

    Et Publish

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  • Tony Singh
    Mar 19, 2014 - 12:12PM

    @Moiz Omar:
    I do not know about Spock, but that land is certainly of my forefathers!!!

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  • Sid
    Mar 19, 2014 - 4:49PM

    @Candid1:
    We will do that after, you leave what is originally Indian land.

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  • MAQ
    Mar 19, 2014 - 5:46PM

    Justice must be done. If this land belongs to the Jewish trust then it must be handed over to them. The current owners of the property should be compensated too.

    Further I would just like to add that Indians and Pakistanis do not need to fight on this issue…please

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  • kk
    Mar 19, 2014 - 8:13PM

    what about Al Aqsa MosqueRecommend

  • TUNG
    Mar 19, 2014 - 10:29PM

    When muslims have the capacity to be violent for anything that happens to them in the west then they shud have the audacity to accept the demands of other minorities

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  • TUNG
    Mar 19, 2014 - 10:29PM

    When muslims have the capacity to be violent for anything that happens to them in the west then they shud have the audacity to accept the demands of other minorities

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  • Ramzan mohammad
    Apr 18, 2014 - 10:19PM

    No amount of argument can prove injustice & illegality according to Pak.moral & legal laws were not done! Ilived nearby for years & have fotos of this place inside & out.the thing was gorgeous! But thats neither here nor there!the only existant outside foto was taken by me from inside a careening bus & almost got beat up for my enthusiasm….**[link text][1]

    [1]: http://httfate of Jamila street synagogueuwRecommend

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