The country’s last Jewish member has fled.
Zebulon Simentov lived in Kabul’s abandoned synagogue. He kept kosher, prayed in Hebrew and survived decades of war, as the country’s centuries old Jewish community was rapidly depleted. The Taliban’s takeover of Kabul last month appears to have been the final straw.
Moti Kahana (an Israeli-American businessman) who manages a private security company that organized the evacuation told The Associated Press that Simentov, 62, and 29 of his neighbours, almost all women and children, were taken to a “neighboring nation.”
Kahana stated that Simentov, who has lived under Taliban rule, wasn’t worried about them. Kahana advised him that he could be kidnapped and killed by the far more radical Islamic State group. Simentov said that Simentov’s neighbors pressed him to go, so their children could ride with him.
Israel’s Kan public broadcaster showed footage of the evacuation. It showed a bus carrying people across what appeared to Afghanistan with none of the faces except Simentov.
They were part of the exodus of many thousands of Afghans fleeing the Taliban’s attack on Afghanistan last month. The U.S. and its allies organized a massive airlift in the closing days of the 20-year-war, but officials acknowledged that up to 200 American citizens, as well as thousands of Afghans who had aided the war effort, were left behind.
Kahana stated that his group is reaching out U.S. authorities and Israeli authorities in order to find Simentov a permanent home. Simentov’s estranged wife, and children, live in Israel. Simentov has refused to give his wife a divorce according to Jewish law for years. This could lead to him facing legal consequences in Israel. Kahana claimed that he convinced Simentov to give the divorce. He has also prepared the paperwork.
Kahana stated, “That was two weeks as a shrink and a psychiatrist talking to him like ten times a day, while his neighbor translated at the same time,”
Hebrew manuscripts found in caves in northern Afghanistan indicate a thriving Jewish community existed there at least 1,000 years ago. Afghanistan was home to around 40,000 Jews in the late 19th century. Many of these were Persian Jews fleeing persecution in Iran. After 1948’s creation, the community began to decline.
Simentov stated that the Soviet invasion of 1979 resulted in the expulsion of the last Jewish families.