As the old saying goes, two Jews, three opinions. Add one headache for the Taliban. Meet Zabulon Simentov, 66, who is believed to be the last remaining Jew in Afghanistan. Emran Feroz recently profiled Simentov for Foreign Policy and uncovered some incredible stories about the feisty Afghan — including that the Taliban once imprisoned him for arguing with a fellow Jew, then kicked him out because the constant bickering became too annoying.
There is a good amount of information available already on Simentov, given his newsworthy title as Afghanistan’s last remaining Jew. He always wears a kippah and observes the Jewish Sabbath, though he will watch television if a non-Jew has turned it on for him. He lives in Afghanistan’s last standing synagogue — which he renovated himself — in the heart of Kabul’s flower district. Every Shabbat, he reads Torah from the bimah of the old sanctuary. He hates the Taliban, and is on a quest to reclaim a Torah stolen by its interior ministry. He allegedly charges a pretty penny (or euro) for interviews.
But Feroz’s article, framed around the imminent return of the Taliban to Afghanistan, adds much to the story. “Everyone in these streets knows [him],” one neighbor told Feroz. “He is very salient and, sometimes, he is very choleric. But we have fun with him.”
Jews have more than a thousand-year history in Afghanistan, and only slowly began emigrating after World War II. But the rise of communism, the Red Army’s persecution of religious people across Central Asia and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 led the Jews of Afghanistan to leave for good to Israel, the United States and elsewhere. When the Taliban took over Afghanistan in the late 1990s, Simentov went to Israel with his family, where his wife, daughters and sisters now live, but returned to Kabul after just two months.
“I did not want to stay there. Afghanistan is my homeland,” he told Foreign Policy…