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The Last Jew in Afghanistan is Leaving

Updated: May 16, 2021

Fearing what will happen after the US military’s promised pull-out from Afghanistan, Zabulon Simantov is packing his bags for Israel. Simantov has faithfully looked after the nation’s only operational synagogue for decades, but now he will close the doors for good.

“I managed to protect the synagogue in Kabul like a lion of Jews here,” he told Arab News on Sunday.

Simantov, like many Afghanistan minority populations, is concerned about what will happen after the US troops leave. It is likely that the Taliban or another similar group will move in to fill the vacancy left behind.

“If the Taliban return, they are going to push us out with a slap in the face,” he told Radio Free Europe last week.

Simantov was born in Herat, Afghanistan, and is a carpet and jewelry salesman by trade. The Jewish history in this region of western Afghanistan stretches back possibly as far as the Assyrian exile and at least to Cyrus the Great and the Persian empire. At one time, Herat was the heart of the Jewish community in Afghanistan, with an estimated population of 40,000 Jews in the early 1800s.

Simantov’s wife, a Jew from neighboring Tajikistan, and their two daughters have lived in Israel since 1998. Simantov remained in his native land to tend to the last functioning synagogue there. Soon, Simantov said, “I will watch TV in Israel to find out what is happening in Afghanistan.”

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