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Some Pakistanis draw heavy criticism in Islamabad for their recent visit to the Jewish state

Prominent Pakistani journalist and a Pakistani Jew were among a group that arrived in Israel, despite no diplomatic ties between the two countries

Anila Ali and Israeli President Isaac Herzog, May 12, 2022 (Photo: Anila Ali's Twitter feed)

After taking a courageous and groundbreaking trip to the Jewish state, several Pakistanis – one of whom is also an American citizen – have come under fire for visiting Israel to promote interfaith relations with Israelis.

Responding to growing criticism from Pakistanis, Anila Ali – a Pakistani-American who lives in Washington, D.C. – said the trip was not an official governmental trip, but the group did meet Israeli President Isaac Herzog.

“(The president) of Israel received us warmly, and the people of Israel opened up their hearts and homes to us and they knew that we were Muslims and they knew that we were Pakistanis,” she said.

The group included Muslims, Sikhs and Christians. Their visit to Israel was part of an initiative of Sharaka, an Arab-Israeli organization established by young leaders from Israel and the Gulf. Sharaka, which means partnership, was created against the backdrop of the 2020 Abraham Accords normalization agreements between Israel and its Arab neighbors – expanding their activities throughout the Middle East in order to turn the vision of the people-to-people peace into reality.

“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 Isaac Herzog. The delegates spoke to the President about their efforts to develop relationships with Israel,” the organization wrote on Twitter.

The Pakistani tourists posed for a photo with the Israeli president with the Israeli president and posted footage from the Western Wall and Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem.

Two members of the group were actually from Pakistan.

Prominent Pakistani journalist, Ahmed Qureshi, and Pakistani Jew, Fischel Ben Khald, were also part of the delegation. Qureshi was fired, state-run Pakistan Television wrote on Twitter on Monday.

Herzog spoke about the visit at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland last week.

“This was an amazing experience because we haven’t had a group of Pakistani leaders in Israel ever in such scope, and that all stemmed from the Abraham Accords, meaning Jew and Muslim can dwell together in the region,” he said.

Israel Hayom reported that the delegation’s visit has received much attention in Pakistan, the second-largest Muslim country in the world, with more than 220 million citizens. 

Israel and Pakistan do not have official diplomatic ties, however, the two countries participated in a shared maritime drill last year, along with 30 other nations.

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