Turkmen SSR Soviet Union
|Other names||زیلون سیمنتو|
|Known for||being the sole remaining Jew permanently residing in Afghanistan (as of 2005)|
Zablon Simintov (b. 1959, Turkmenistan) is an Afghan carpet trader and restaurateur who is believed to be the last remaining Jew in Afghanistan. He is also the caretaker of the only synagogue in Kabul. His name has also been transcribed in English as Zebulon Simentov, Zabolon Simentov and Zabolon Simantov.
Afghan Jewish conflict
Simintov had lived with the second last remaining Jewish man in Afghanistan, Ishaq 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 is adamant that he made the suggestion only as he thought Kabul was too cold for the old man, but the older man took umbrage, thinking that 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.
Life in Afghanistan
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 that 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, Simentov suggested he may be interested in moving to Israel to join his two daughters.
He says that he receives special kosher for Passover packages 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.
The business owners on Flower Street, where he lives, call him "Zabolon the Jew." They say they don't know him well but greet him when he passes by. In November 2013 Simintov announced that he would close his restaurant in March 2014 due to a decline in business, specifically there has been a fall in both the numbers of people eating out in Kabul and hotel catering orders.
- 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.[dead link]
- "'Only one Jew' now in Afghanistan". BBC News. January 25, 2005.
- Martin Fletcher (June 14, 2008). "The last Jew in Afghanistan". NBC News.
- Totally Jewish.com - Hannah Schraer - Tuesday, August 15, 2006 Fringe Benefits
- Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson (July 19, 2007). "In Afghanistan, a Jewish Community of One". NPR.
- Jason Motlagh (September 2, 2007). "The last Jew in Afghanistan". San Francisco Chronicle.
- The Virtual Jewish History Tour (Afghanistan) by Alden Oreck, Jewish Virtual Library
- YouTube - The last Jew in Afghanistan - 12 Sep 07
- Donati, Jessica and Harooni, Mirwais (Nov 12, 2013) Last Jew in Afghanistan faces ruin as kebabs fail to sell reuters.com