Bene Israel graveyard: A defiance of time
5/8/2017 1:36:18 PM
|written By : Reema Abbasi|
Life may be in the hands of a higher power, but the survival of these graves is redolent with the power of human hands. Resolute, strong pieces of stone art, they live on in majesty. The air here carries images of an ancient brotherhood, a rarefied culture and of an era that lies slain.
The Bene Israel graveyard, a few yards from Baba Zaheen Shah Tajuddin’s revered mausoleum and in the heart of the massive Mewa Shah Qabristan, bites back at the shifting fabric of our land in defiance of bigoted times.
I return to tread on its raw land of thick, thorny bushes beneath age-old neem trees after eight years. It is the same week when Shama and Shahzad lost their lives to allegations of blasphemy, nine Hindu girls were forcibly converted with an Anjali becoming Salma at just 12 and the desecration of a Hanuman temple near Hyderabad.
However, despite a grim context and the knowledge that this antiquated burial ground will never know another funeral nor will a Jew walk through its gates, it is a moment of relief. Most graves are in tact, resplendent in carved yellow stone or white marble; the keepers speak of some three Jewish families who have adopted Qureshi clans in various parts of Sindh and Meher Khatoon, now 90 years of age, is still its most feisty guardian with the day job of a flower-seller for the dead at her stall outside the gate.
“I have been here for 80 years now. I came as an under-age bride and saw hundreds of visitors, families paid us to look after memorials and all burial rituals were conducted here,” she says, pointing to a rugged, raised platform in the midst of imposing headstones.
“No one visits anymore except for some who are either curious or live abroad. People call them Israeli and not Jewish, especially with all the news of Israeli atrocities filtering in.”