WATCH: Afghanistan’s Last Jew Is Staying Despite Taliban’s Abuse Of Him In The Past

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Zebulon Simantov blowing the Shofar, April 2019, Kabul, Afghanistan. (Photo: Ismatullah Noor, Kabul, Afghanistan).

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As the world watched the searing images of the Taliban taking control of Afghanistan’s capital Kabul, some people were concerned about the fate of Zebulon Simantov, 62, the last Jew remaining in the country.

As YWN reported in April, Simantov had been planning on moving to Israel after Sukkos due to his fear of the Taliban’s return but apparently has changed his mind, saying on Tuesday that despite having the opportunity to flee to the US or Israel, he is not interested.

Simantov was a successful businessman in the past, selling carpets and jewelry, but when the Taliban first came into power in 1996, they stole all his goods, beat him up, threw him into prison and pressured him to convert to Islam. He didn’t give in and was released after a few months but later was imprisoned three more times. The Taliban also stole or destroyed all his possessions, including a menorah.

Simantov decided to stay despite the past abuses he suffered from the Taliban, although he admitted that “Sikhs, Hindus and even Muslims have left the country. No one can stay away from the Taliban. They’re still the same as 21 years ago, whipping people with cables.”

Simantov is the caretaker of the remaining shul in Kabul. About 40,000 Jews lived in Afghanistan at the beginning of the 20th century but most left to Israel after 1948 and the remaining Jews left in years afterward, including Simantov’s wife and two daughters, who moved to Israel in 1998.

(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)

9 COMMENTS

  1. An important – missing – component of this story is that he apparently cannot move to Israel because he refuses to provide his wife a Get.

  2. He has a choice. If he goes to Israel he goes to jail forever until he gives a get. If he stays where he is his world Re know and will go down in history as last remaining Jew. The Taliban were not hurt him because they want to show world they are tolerant. Smart move of him. He just needs a minyan. Maybe Jews will move there being that America is becoming extreme atheists and anti Torah. Time will tell.

  3. Rates – I think you are on to something. Why don’t they “drop off” all Jews that have not given a Get to their wives to accompany him. That way he’ll have dozens of Minyan. BTW why do they bother top daven at all?

  4. Amazing that YWN in their “reporting” completely missed that he left his wife an agunah, which was reported in Israeli media 10-11 years ago and is well-known. He is not a “successful businessman.” He is dirt poor living in a shul, at the mercy of the governing warlords. His money comes from donations from overseas and payments he demands for interviews ($100 to $500). One British reporter paid him with a case of single malt scotch. How do you miss this news and totally mischaracterize this guys as a hero?

    Eretz Yisrael is available to him. It has been since 1998. he CAN leave. Yes, he’ll have to swallow his pride and give his elderly wife a get. There’s no honor in being the ONLY Jews left somewhere. A Jew must have a community. That’s why we’re required to daven with a minyan and learn by chavrusa. What is he maintaining? What’s the kedusha of Kabul? Yes, it’s an old shul. We have plenty of old shuls in Israel. He is an attention-seeker, living contrary to the most basic Jewish values. After 120 years he wants to be buried with his Muslim neighbors?… zie gezunt!

  5. To orech Din.
    In many cases men refuse to give a get because they want a connection to their kids or don’t want to be left in the poor house after civil secular divorce courts. This guy is smart. If he goes to Israel they will either jail him or put him in cherem. Where he is now no one is throwing him out of his shul and the courts in Afghanistan are pro men. So why should he take a chance and jeopardize his safety.