Thursday, 26 November 2009
The Council for World Jewry’s involvement with Pakistan grew out of the Council’s extensive outreach to American Muslims and specifically the Pakistani-American community. Through this dialogue, we were encouraged to engage Pakistan directly and Pakistani-American leaders also connected us with Pakistan’s political and intellectual elite.
Through the Association of Physicians of Pakistani-descent of North America APPNA , representing 15,000 physicians and health care professionals of Pakistani descent, we received an invitation to visit with President Musharraf in Islamabad. Thus was opened Pakistan’s channel to American Jewry, a channel which also briefly allowed for the intensification of Pakistan’s relationship with Israel.
The first trip was comprised of Pakistani-American activists who met with Muslim/Palestinian leaders, including Al-Quds University President Sari Nusseibeh, a Muslim Israeli Arab who was serving in the Israeli cabinet, other cabinet ministers and members of Knesset, Foreign Ministry officials, former Foreign Minister Sylvan Shalom, Chief Justice Aharon Barak of Israel’s Supreme Court, and lead Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat.
A particular highlight for participants was their worship at al-Aksa mosque on the Temple Mount (known to Muslims as “al-haram”). Most of the group traveled on U.S. passports, though one couple came through Europe on Pakistani passports.
The Pakistani-Americans were very impressed with the rights enjoyed by Muslims/Arabs in Israel and the openness of the society, but could not abide what they saw as the periodic murder of Muslim children. During this visit, Corporal Gilad Schalit was kidnapped and some fighting broke out in Gaza. The journalists returned to Pakistan with a different story to tell their countrymen.
The second trip was for two Pakistani musicians, marking the first time Pakistanis came to Israel openly on Pakistani passports. A few days into their visit, the war in Lebanon broke out. The entire visit was shadowed by reports of heavy fighting and casualties. We were eating dinner at an Arab restaurant on the Carmel in Haifa when the first shell hit Israel’s northern city, landing on the Carmelite monastery at Stella Maris. This produced loud background noise but did not significantly detract from the quality experience for the two artists.
The highlight of their visit, which also included many of the same meetings that took place during the first trip, was a public concert they performed on the campus of the Tel Aviv Museum.
This second trip was encouraged and facilitated by the U.S. State Department, which had had prior contacts with the two musicians.
– David Twersky