Zablon Simintov (Hebrew: זבולון סימן-טוב, Dari Persian/Pashto: زابلون سیمینتوف; 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.
|Born||1959 (age 61–62)|
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 had 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 Taliban regime. He was put to detention and beaten several times by the Taliban and they robbed his carpets warehouse 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 practice 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. 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 a 2019 interview, Simintov said "I don't speak Hebrew. I am an Afghan." He also claims to know President Ashraf Ghani personally. That same year, he met Jewish-American travel blogger Drew Binsky and was featured in one of his videos.
In 2021 Simintov said he will leave Afghanistan for Israel after the year’s High Holidays season in the fall, fearing a resurgence of groups such as the Taliban after the U.S. military's promised withdrawal.
- Motlagh, Jason (September 2, 2007). "The last Jew in Afghanistan". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved November 28, 2020.
- Aizenman, N.C. (January 27, 2005). "Afghan Jew Becomes Country's One and Only". The 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.
Laura E. Adkin (2019-10-31). "The last Jews in Afghanistan argued so much the Taliban kicked them out of prison and stole their Torah". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Archived from the original on 2019-11-01. Retrieved 2020-07-11.
Unfortunately, their feuding also allowed the Taliban to run away with the synagogue’s Torah. Scribed in the 15th century, the scroll was allegedly taken by Taliban’s interior minister and sold on the black market.
- Hannah Schraer (August 15, 2006). "Fringe benefits". TotallyJewish.com. Archived from the original on November 3, 2006.
- Nelson, Soraya Sarhaddi (July 19, 2007). "In Afghanistan, a Jewish Community of One". NPR. Retrieved November 28, 2020.
- The Virtual Jewish History Tour (Afghanistan) by Alden Oreck, Jewish Virtual Library
- on YouTube
- Garfinkel, Jonathan (May 29, 2013). "A Congregation of One". Tablet. Retrieved November 28, 2020.
- Donati, Jessica; Harooni, Mirwais (November 12, 2013). "Last Jew in Afghanistan faces ruin as kebabs fail to sell". Reuters. Retrieved November 28, 2020.
- "„When the Taliban realized, I was a Jew, they let me go"". Bild. February 4, 2019. Retrieved November 28, 2020.
- Drew Binsky is still traveling, pandemic or not
- "The last known Jew in Afghanistan is leaving". Israel National News. April 4, 2021. Retrieved April 4, 2021.