Afghanistan’s Last Remaining Jew to Leave Over Taliban Fear

The withdrawal of U.S. and NATO troops from Afghanistan has made many Afghans fearful of the Taliban’s return to power, prompting the country’s last remaining Jew to make plans to leave as soon as possible.“God willing, I cannot say seven to eight months, but I will definitely leave by the time the Taliban come,” said Zebulon Simentov, 62, who lives in Kabul.The Taliban have increased their attacks on government-controlled areas in recent weeks, just as the United States and its NATO allies started withdrawing their remaining forces from the country.The U.S. announced Tuesday that it had pulled out between 30% and 44% of its 2,500 troops in the South Asian country. A complete withdrawal of the U.S. and NATO forces is expected to take place by September 11.Simentov has been the caretaker of Kabul’s only synagogue for decades and lives in the synagogue complex. He hopes the government can hire a replacement when he moves to Israel, to which his wife and two daughters moved in the 1990s because of the civil war in Afghanistan. He has visited once, for two months in 1998, he said.“They know that I am working on it, getting my passport and leaving. They can have a watchman, and then, let’s see what happens,” he said.Once a thriving community in Afghanistan, thousands of Afghan Jews have left for Israel and Western countries.The migration started in the 1950s after the creation of Israel, though many left after the Soviet invasion in 1979.Tolerant societyAccording to Hamayon Ahmadi, a conservator and restorer in Herat, more than 1,000 Jews coexisted with other residents of Herat City before the start of the war in 1978.“They were living together with others in a peaceful environment in Herat,” Ahmadi said, adding that the city once housed four synagogues.He said some Afghan Jews who left the country have visited the cemetery south of Herat’s Old City.Simentov has been the only Jew living in Afghanistan, he said, since Isaac Levi, another Jew living in Kabul, died in 2005.Other than being the synagogue caretaker, Simentov is jobless, though he said he ran a restaurant a few years ago and, he said, his family at one time had a carpet business that allowed him to travel the world.FILE - This photo from Aug. 29, 2009, shows Zebulon Simentov, the last known Jew living in Afghanistan, at his dining room table during Shabbat in his Kabul home, ...
3 Jun 2021 English United States News

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