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The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Afghanistan's last known Jew prepares to leave for Israel

Afghanistan's Jewish community may have numbered 40,000 by the 1940's [Getty]

Date of publication: 6 April, 2021

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Simintov drew international media attention for living a solitary life as Afghanistan’s last known Jew, spending the last two decades looking after the only synagogue in the war-ravaged country.
Afghanistan's last known Jew is preparing to leave the country for Israel, according to media reports.

Zablon Simintov has expressed his intention to leave the country in separate comments to Arab News and Radio Free Europe.

In both, he suggested his decision was linked to the perceived failure of Afghanistan's peace process and the anticipated return of the Taliban under a power-sharing agreement.

"I will watch on TV in Israel to find out what will happen in Afghanistan," the 61-year-old told Arab News. "I have had enough and plan to leave in the next few months."

"After our important festivals [Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur in September], I will leave Afghanistan," he told RFE.

"If you decide to leave then it is difficult to stay..If the Taliban return, they are going to push us out with a slap in the face."

Read also: Afghan president to reveal new Taliban peace proposal as US withdrawal looms: official

Simintov has drawn international media attention to his solitary life as Afghanistan's last known Jew, spending the last two decades looking after the only synagogue in the country.

The carpet and jewelry merchant has lived through tumultuous periods of modern Afghan history, including the Soviet invasion and subsequent withdrawal, civil war, the era of mujahideen rule, and the rule of the Taliban.

His wife and two daughters have lived in Israel since 1998. Afghanistan's Jewish community may have numbered 40,000 Jews by the 1940s, according to some estimates. Most lived in Simintov's native eastern province of Herat, where four synagogues were located.

The country saw a large Jewish exodus beginning with the time of the creation of Israel in 1948. The country's Jewish history is believed to stretch back 2,000 years, but little is known about the community.

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