US, WASHINGTON (ORDO NEWS) — Zablon Simintov refused to leave Afghanistan for decades, surviving the Soviet invasion, the bloody civil war, the brutal Taliban rule and the occupation of his country by a foreign coalition led by the United States. But his stubbornness reached its limits, as the prospect of the Taliban returning to power convinced the country’s last Jew that the time had come to pack up.
“Why should I stay? They (the Taliban) consider me an infidel,” he told AFP at the only synagogue in Kabul, which is located in an old building in the center of the capital.
“I am the last, the only Jew in Afghanistan (…). Things may get worse for me here. I decided to leave for Israel if the Taliban return,” he added.
This possibility appears to be possible. President Joe Biden confirmed the departure of US forces by September 11, the twentieth anniversary of the 2001 attacks, while peace talks between the Taliban and the government reached a dead end.
Zablon, who was born in the 1950s in the city of Herat in western Afghanistan, which was previously a refuge for families of wealthy Jewish merchants, came to Kabul in the early 1980s due to the relative calm that prevailed in the capital at the time at the time of the Soviet invasion.
The Jews have been in Afghanistan for more than 2,500 years. Tens of thousands of them lived in Herat, where four synagogues testify to the ancient existence of this community in the city.
– The synagogue is looted –
But since the nineteenth century, Jews gradually left the country, and many of them now live in Israel. Over the decades, every Zebulon family, including his wife and two daughters, has left Afghanistan. He is now certain that he is the last Afghan Jew in the country.
Wearing a salwar, the traditional Afghan dress consisting of a long shirt over baggy pants, and wearing a black kippah on his head, he nostalgically remembers the “blessed period,” as he describes it, in the 1970s.
“The believers of all religions enjoyed complete freedom to worship at that time,” Zablon said, who said he was proud of being an Afghan.
But the recent developments in the country made its reality bitter, especially between 1996 and 2001 when the Taliban was in power and imposed its fundamentalist vision. She even tried to force him to leave his religion.
“The disgraceful Taliban regime put me in prison four times,” he explained, citing an incident in which a group of Taliban fighters stormed the synagogue. They said, “It is an Islamic emirate and the Jews have no rights here.”
Taliban fighters looted the place, tore up Hebrew books, smashed a Jewish candlestick and took an old Torah book, according to him.
Despite everything, Zebulon still refused to leave his country. “I resisted,” he said proudly, kissing the floor of the synagogue. “I have made Moses’ religion proud here.”
– ‘I lost confidence’ –
Zebulon continues to celebrate the Jewish New Year and Yom Kippur (Yom Kippur), in the synagogue, sometimes with Muslim friends.
Speaking in the dialect of the city of Herat, which is one of the two official languages in the country, he added, “Lullay, the synagogue has been sold dozens of times.”
Zablon was able to hold out through the alms his friends and relatives gave him. He prepares his meals on a small gas stove in the room on a red carpet. On a corner table, he wrote and pictures of his two daughters kissing her without stopping.
Zebulon admits that he believed in 2001, when the Taliban were ousted from power after the American intervention, that the country would prosper. “I thought the Europeans and the Americans would solve this country’s problems … but that was not the case,” he admits with regret.
His neighbors will regret his departure. “He’s been a client of mine for 20 years,” said Shaker Azizi, who runs a grocery store across from the synagogue. “He’s a good man. If he leaves, we will miss him.”
But Zebulon fears the fate that awaits him if he remains, convinced that the Taliban movement has not changed. “The Taliban are still the same as they were 21 years ago,” he said.
“I lost confidence in Afghanistan (…) there is no longer any life here,” he concluded, hoping that he would feel at home in Israel.
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