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The last Jew in Afghanistan

The last Jew in Afghanistan
December 17th, 2011 | 1 comment
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Zebulon Simintov

Zebulon Simintov lives in a room adjacent to the only surviving synagogue in Kabul. It is the last Jew, is not no other throughout Afghanistan. The day he dies or decides to leave will end on the twenty centuries of Jewish presence in that country.

The arrival of Judaism to Afghanistan goes back to the Babylonian Captivity. In fact, it is believed that the Pashtuns, the ethnic majority in Afghanistan, are the descendants of one of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel. Similarly, it is said that the name of the city of Kabul derived from Cain and Abel. The country, meanwhile, comes from Afghani, a legendary, grandson of King Saul and Pashtun tradition says, would be the progenitor of all Pashtuns.

Map of Afghanistan

Zebulon was born in 1959 in the Afghan city of Herat, where exactly was neighbor to become the penultimate Jewish country, Ishaq Levin. There life was quiet until the arrival of the Mujahideen in the '80s, when the harassment began based on the amount of money. Because of this, Zebulon and his family sold their carpets and leather shop and moved to Kabul.

In 1969, the community declined sharply in number, leaving only 300 Jews in the country. This process, however, worsened in 1996, since the Soviet invasion there were only 10.

During this time, Zebulon spent several years in Turkmenistan, but returned to Afghanistan in 1998, when the Taliban controlled the country. As his home had been destroyed during the civil war, decided to move to the room that was next to the synagogue in Kabul, located in a building with two floors, with empty rooms. To make matters worse, the customs agents had seized all his goods, valued at $ 40,000.

At first, Ishaq Levin, caretaker and rabbi of the synagogue was well Zebulon. But within months, the relationship soured and led to discussions between the last two Jews in Afghanistan, which did not cease until his death in 2005 Ishaq, who had served 80 years.

The last synagogue in Kabul

Apart from the solitude in which he was, Zebulon also faced other challenges to continue fulfilling the Jewish precepts. One of the biggest problems was to get kosher food in Afghanistan because there was no butcher animals slaughtered according to kosher rules. This is why we requested special permission from the rabbi of Tashkent in Uzbekistan, the closest to Kabul, to sacrifice himself.

While Zebulon is the only Jew left in Afghanistan, an estimated more than 10,000 descendants of Jews of that country. Within the community that lives in New York, there are men who possess knowledge of Dari or Pashto, the two official languages ​​of Afghanistan, but Afghan sentiment is very weak among most of them.

Before each Passover, Zebulon receives a packet with 27 kilos of kosher food from the Jewish population. With these and other similar aid it receives from other Jewish communities abroad, their Judaism survives.

Source: Blog of AMIA (Asociación Mutual Israelite Argentina) (does not indicate the source)

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