The person who is known to be Afghanistan’s last Jewish citizen will be leaving the country and moving to Israel later this year following threats that the Taliban could be strengthened in the country if the US withdraws troops.
For well over a decade, Zabulon Simantov has been the last Jewish person living there. He made his home in the capital of Kabul where he runs the only synagogue in the country.
The 61-year-old was born in the Afghan city of Herat, which at the time was home to hundreds of Jews. He travelled the world selling carpets and jewellery always returning to his home country. However, in 1992 he was forced to flee to Tajikistan. There he met his wife, who is also Jewish, and returned to Afghanistan a few years later.
When he returned the Taliban stole all of his carpets at the airport and he went from being a wealthy businessman to eventually living on a low income. In 1998 his wife and children made Aliyah to Israel, returning to the Jewish homeland. Zabulon felt he should stay and tend to the synagogue.
In 1998, Zabulon Simantov was not the only Jew in the country, but over time the numbers dwindled until he was the last.
Zabulon has been able to keep kosher this whole time. He learned how to slaughter animals according to Jewish traditions so he could avoid the Halal meat sold in the markets. And amazingly he kept the small synagogue open and maintained it to a high standard as the only worshipper there.
“I managed to protect the synagogue of Kabul like a lion of Jews here,” he said.
In 2019, Jewish vlogger Drew Binsky met Zabulon Simantov and went to the synagogue, calling the experience one of the most touching moments of all his travels.
You can watch the video below:
At the time of the video, Zabulon was confident that he would remain in Afghanistan. Asked by Drew if he would go to Israel, Zabulon replied, “Why? This is my country and I’m not going to leave.”
Two years have passed, however, and Zabulon now fears his country will change for the worse. The US military has vowed to leave Afghanistan which he believes will create a vacuum that will be filled with radical Islamist groups.
Later this year, after the Jewish High Holy Days, Zabulon will be heading home to Israel to be with his wife and family. Afghanistan will lose its last remaining Jew and its lone synagogue will close, ending an era of Jewish life in the country that scholars believe began at least 2,000 years ago.
“I will watch on TV in Israel to find out what happens in Afghanistan,” Zabulon said.