Zablon Simintov (Hebrew: זבולון סימן-טוב, Dari: زیلون سیمنتو; born 1959; also Romanized Zebulon Simentov, Zabolon Simentov, Zabolon Simantov) is an Afghan carpet trader and restaurateur who is believed to be the last remaining Jew living in Afghanistan. He is also the caretaker of the only synagogue in Kabul.
Zablon Simintov in March 2005
|Born||1959 (age 59–60)|
|Known for||Being the sole remaining Jew permanently residing in Afghanistan|
Simintov was born and grew up in the western city of Herat, before moving to Kabul. His house was damaged during the bloody civil war (by which time almost all Jews left the country) forcing him to move into the synagogue. For a few years he was in Turkmenistan but he returned to Kabul in 1998, during the brutal Taliban regime. He was put to detention and beaten several times by the Taliban, and his carpets warehouse was robbed by them in 2001. Simintov had lived in the synagogue with the second last remaining Jewish man in Afghanistan, Ishaq (Isaac) Levin, who died on January 26, 2005, aged around 80. The story of Simintov and Levin was the basis for a British play. Simintov deprecated Levin in an interview with British journalist Martin Fletcher. Levin had initially welcomed Simintov but the two fell out permanently when Simintov offered the caretaker help to emigrate to Israel to join the rest of the former Kabul Jewish community. Simintov was adamant he made the suggestion only as he thought Kabul was too cold for the old man, but the older man took umbrage, claiming Simintov was trying to take over the synagogue. A feud ensued, with the Taliban becoming involved after both men reported each other to the authorities for alleged wrongdoings ranging from running a brothel to misappropriating religious objects. After Levin's death, Simintov said he was not sad and would not miss him.
Simintov says it is not easy to practise his religion alone. However, he has obtained special permission from the nearest rabbi, in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, to slaughter his own meat in line with kosher dietary laws which can normally only be done by a specially trained Jewish butcher. Simintov lives alone in a small room next to an old synagogue on Flower Street in Kabul and receives donations from Jewish groups abroad and sympathetic Muslim locals. His wife and two daughters live in Israel. When asked during an interview whether he would emigrate to Israel, Simintov retorted, "Go to Israel? What business do I have there? Why should I leave?" In a video interview by Al Jazeera on 17 September 2007, Simintov suggested that he may be interested in moving to Israel to join his two daughters.
He says that he receives special kosher packages for Passover from Afghan Jews living in New York. Sometimes, he says, Jewish foreigners visit his home for the high holidays.[clarification needed] Simintov has also been quoted as saying: "I don't want my Jewish heritage erased. My father was a rabbi, my grandfather was a rabbi. We were a big, religious family..." However he wears his yarmulke only in private and is hesitant to take visitors inside the synagogue he calls home.
In November 2013 Simintov announced that he would close his kebab restaurant in March 2014 due to a decline in business, after the reduction of NATO forces, specifically there has been a fall in both the numbers of people eating out in Kabul and hotel catering orders. In a 2019 interview, Simintov said "I don't speak Hebrew. I am an Afghan." He also claims to know President Ashraf Ghani personally.
- Jason Motlagh (September 2, 2007). "The last Jew in Afghanistan". San Francisco Chronicle.
- N.C. Aizenman (January 27, 2005). "Afghan Jew Becomes Country's One and Only". Washington Post. p. A10.
- "Now I'm the only Jew in the city". The Times. Archived from the original on March 11, 2007.
- "'Only one Jew' now in Afghanistan". BBC News. January 25, 2005.
- Martin Fletcher (June 14, 2008). "The last Jew in Afghanistan". NBC News. Archived from the original on June 16, 2008.
- Hannah Schraer, Totally Jewish.com, August 15, 2006 Fringe Benefits
- Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson (July 19, 2007). "In Afghanistan, a Jewish Community of One". NPR.
- The Virtual Jewish History Tour (Afghanistan) by Alden Oreck, Jewish Virtual Library
- on YouTube
- Garfinkel, Jonathan (May 29, 2013). A Congregation of One. tabletmag.com.
- Donati, Jessica and Harooni, Mirwais (Nov 12, 2013) Last Jew in Afghanistan faces ruin as kebabs fail to sell reuters.com