Zablon Simintov

Zablon Simintov[Note 1] (Dari/Pashto: زابلون سیمینتوف; Hebrew: זבולון סימן-טוב; born 1959),[5] also known as Zebulon Simentov is an Afghan Jew, former carpet trader and restaurateur. Before his evacuation from Afghanistan to Israel in 2021, he was widely known as the only Jew still living in Afghanistan, and was also the caretaker of the country's only synagogue in the capital city of Kabul.[6][7][8][9] On 7 September 2021, shortly after the Taliban takeover, he left Afghanistan with the help of a private security company organized by Israeli-American businessman Mordechai Kahana and Rabbi Moshe Margaretten from the Tzedek Association [1], from after which it was discovered that a distant relative of Simintov, Tova Moradi, was actually the last Jew living in Afghanistan; Moradi also fled Afghanistan (for Albania) in October 2021.[10][11][12]

Zablon Simintov
زابلون سیمینتوف
Zablon Simintov.jpg
Simintov holding a Shofar in March 2005
Born1959 (age 63–64)
Other namesZebulon Simentov
Known forBeing the last remaining Jew in Afghanistan

Early lifeEdit

Simintov (aka Zebulon Simentov) was born into an Orthodox Jewish family in the city of Herat in 1959, where he spent most of his early life until his eventual relocation to Kabul. His residence was severely damaged during the Taliban's rise to power in the Second Afghan Civil War, which forced him to move into the city's only synagogue. Despite that most Jews had already departed from the country by this time, with the majority settling down in Israel, Simintov did not permanently relocate; he briefly lived in Turkmenistan but returned to Kabul in 1998, by which time the Taliban had officially established the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. Simintov was detained, jailed and abused several times by Taliban militants during this period, and was also extorted by the group at his carpet warehouse in 2001.[13]

Later lifeEdit

Simintov lived at the synagogue in Kabul alongside Ishaq Levin, who was thought to be the only other Jew remaining in Afghanistan, until the latter's death on 26 January 2005 at around 80 years of age. The story of Simintov and Levin as the supposed only remaining Jews in Afghanistan served as the basis for a British play.[14] Simintov deprecated Levin in an interview with British journalist Martin Fletcher; while Levin had initially welcomed Simintov into Kabul's synagogue following the latter's return from Turkmenistan in 1998, the two grew to greatly dislike each other due to personal feuds and religious disagreements.[15]

In an interview with the Jewish American magazine Tablet, Simintov highlighted the difficulties of being the isolated and only remaining practitioner of Judaism in Afghanistan. He had to obtain special permission from the nearest rabbi in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, to slaughter his own livestock for meat in line with Jewish dietary laws, as this can normally only be done by a specially-trained Jewish butcher. Simintov received regular shipments of special kosher supplies on Passover from Afghan Jews living in New York. He has stated that he only wore his kippah in private and was hesitant to allow visitors into his synagogue.[16]

Simintov lived alone in a small synagogue room and received donations from Jewish groups abroad as well as from sympathetic Muslim locals.[1] His wife, from whom he is estranged, and his two daughters reside in Israel.[17] When asked during an interview whether he would also emigrate to Israel and join his family, Simintov retorted, "Go to Israel? What business do I have there? Why should I leave?"[1] In a 2007 video interview with Al Jazeera, Simintov suggested that he may be interested in moving to Israel to join his two daughters.[18] However, he again expressed reluctance to leave in a 2019 interview, stating: "I don't speak Hebrew. I am an Afghan." Simintov has also said that he knows former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani personally.[19]

In November 2013, Simintov announced that he would close his kebab restaurant in March 2014 due to declining business after the reduction of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan.[20]

Taliban taking over and Simintov's exitEdit

In April 2021, Simintov announced that he would leave Afghanistan for Israel after the High Holy Days in September, fearing a resurgence of groups such as the Taliban after the US military began withdrawing.[citation needed] On 15 August 2021, three weeks before the first of the High Holy Days, the Taliban captured Kabul.[21] Simintov remained in Kabul despite having been given chances to leave including by businessman Mordechai Kahana, who offered to pay for a private airplane to take him to Israel. Rabbi Mendy Chitrik of the Alliance of Rabbis in Islamic States involved the Turkish government in the efforts to rescue him from Kabul.[22] While he insisted he would stay to take care of the country's last synagogue,[23][24] it was later reported that his decision may have been influenced by his refusal to give his wife a get (a Jewish religious divorce).[25] Get refusal can lead to a prison sentence in Israel. Another report stated he refused to leave as he owes money to his neighbours and wished to honour his debts.[26]

Eventually, he left in September 2021 with several neighbouring families, stating that it was not the Taliban, but the possibility of other, more radical Islamist groups such as IS-KP taking him hostage, which resulted in his exit from the country.[27][11] After leaving Afghanistan, Simintov granted his wife a divorce.[28] A month later, Simintov's distant cousin, 83-year-old Tova Moradi, also fled Afghanistan, to Albania in October 2021, fearing for her safety.[12] Thus, Moradi was apparently the "last Jew in Afghanistan."[29]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ From סימן טוב‎ (siman tov), lit.'A good sign'; also romanized as Zebulon Simentov, Zabolon Simentov, or Zabolon Simantov.


  1. ^ a b c Motlagh, Jason (2 September 2007). "The last Jew in Afghanistan". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 28 November 2020.
  2. ^ ""I Have Had Enough": Zabulon Simintov, the Last-Known Jew in Afghanistan Returns to Israel". Jewish Journal. 23 April 2021. Retrieved 30 April 2022.
  3. ^ "Afghanistan's last Jew departs for Israel after granting wife divorce". The Jerusalem Post | Retrieved 30 April 2022.
  4. ^ The Virtual Jewish History Tour (Afghanistan) by Alden Oreck, Jewish Virtual Library
  5. ^ Langston, Henry (2 November 2011). "The Last Jew in Afghanistan". Vice. Retrieved 17 August 2021.
  6. ^ Aizenman, N.C. (27 January 2005). "Afghan Jew Becomes Country's One and Only". The Washington Post. p. A10.
  7. ^ "Now I'm the only Jew in the city". The Times. Archived from the original on 11 March 2007.
  8. ^ "'Only one Jew' now in Afghanistan". BBC News. 25 January 2005.
  9. ^ Martin Fletcher (14 June 2008). "The last Jew in Afghanistan". NBC News. Archived from the original on 16 June 2008.
  10. ^ Sharon, Jeremy (8 September 2021). "Last Jew leaves Afghanistan". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 14 September 2021.
  11. ^ a b "Afghanistan's last Jew finally leaves the country, reportedly headed to US". The Times of Israel. 7 September 2021. Retrieved 14 September 2021.
  12. ^ a b Ben Zion, Ilan; Semini, Llazar (29 October 2021). "The last, last Jew? Simentov relative flees Afghanistan after Taliban takeover". The Times of Israel. Retrieved 28 November 2021.
  13. ^ Laura E. Adkin (31 October 2019). "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 1 November 2019. Retrieved 11 July 2020. 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.
  14. ^ Hannah Schraer (15 August 2006). "Fringe benefits". Archived from the original on 3 November 2006.
  15. ^ Nelson, Soraya Sarhaddi (19 July 2007). "In Afghanistan, a Jewish Community of One". NPR. Retrieved 28 November 2020.
  16. ^ Garfinkel, Jonathan (29 May 2013). "A Congregation of One". Tablet. Retrieved 28 November 2020.
  17. ^ The Virtual Jewish History Tour (Afghanistan) by Alden Oreck, Jewish Virtual Library
  18. ^ The last Jew in Afghanistan - 12 Sep 07 on YouTube
  19. ^ "„When the Taliban realized, I was a Jew, they let me go"". Bild. 4 February 2019. Retrieved 28 November 2020.
  20. ^ Donati, Jessica; Harooni, Mirwais (12 November 2013). "Last Jew in Afghanistan faces ruin as kebabs fail to sell". Reuters. Retrieved 28 November 2020.
  21. ^ "Afghanistan: Taliban declare victory after President Ghani leaves Kabul". Deutsche Welle. 15 August 2021. Retrieved 16 August 2021.
  22. ^ Rosenfeld, Arno (17 August 2021). "As Taliban take charge, uncertain future for Afghanistan's Jewish heritage sites". Forward. Retrieved 14 September 2021.
  23. ^ Afghanistan's last Jew Zebulon Simentov had decided to stay on amid humanitarian crisis. WION. 17 August 2021. Archived from the original on 21 December 2021. Retrieved 17 August 2021.
  24. ^ "Last Afghan Jew will be safe, Taliban spokesman (unwittingly) tells Israeli TV". The Times of Israel. 17 August 2021. Retrieved 14 September 2021.
  25. ^ Pasko, Simcha (18 August 2021). "Last Jew in Afghanistan refuses to give wife Jewish divorce". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 18 August 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  26. ^ Poyet, Stanislas (20 August 2021). "Zébulon Simantov, le dernier juif d'Afghanistan, ne quittera pas le pays malgré les talibans". Le Figaro. Retrieved 14 September 2021.
  27. ^ "Afghanistan's Last Jew Leaves After Taliban Takeover". Haaretz. The Associated Press. 8 September 2021. Retrieved 14 September 2021.
  28. ^ "Last Jew to leave Afghanistan divorces wife after refusing for over 20 years". The Times of Israel. 26 September 2021. Retrieved 3 October 2021.
  29. ^ 'Last Jew in Afghanistan' loses title to hidden Jewish family. December 1, 2021. The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved May 21, 2022.

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