Afghanistan's last Jew refuses to leave

Afghanistan's last Jew refuses to leave after demands for cash 'denied' by rescue team
2 min read
19 August, 2021
Moti Kahana, an American-Israeli businessman who has previously been involved in evacuating Jews from Middle Eastern countries, said that Zabulon Simintov had agreed to leave the Taliban-run country but later conditioned it on 'personal financing'.
A Rabbi involved in the aborted rescue mission said Simintov claimed he had personal debts to clear [Getty - file photo]

Afghanistan's last known Jew demanded money from volunteers assisting in evacuating him from Kabul after the Taliban took control this week but refused to leave when his request was turned down, according to a report in Haaretz.

The allegation by Moti Kahana, an Israeli American businessman, came alongside claims that Zabulon Simitintov decided against leaving for Israel over his refusal to grant a religious divorce to his wife, an Israeli resident since 1998.

Kahana, who has previously been involved in evacuating Jews from Middle Eastern countries, told Haaretz that Simintov had agreed to leave the country but later conditioned it on "personal financing" - a request that the businessman turned down. 

Rabbi Mendy Chritik, chairman of the Istanbul-based Alliance of Rabbis in Islamic States, was also involved in the aborted rescue mission and said that his organisation contacted the Turkish foreign ministry after Simintov indicated his desire to leave.

But the Rabbi said Simintov claimed to have personal debts to clear. "We're not in the business of covering people's debts. We're in the business of saving people's lives if they need to be saved," said Rabbi Chritik.

Despite not facing threats to his life, in April President Joe Biden announced the US withdrawal, Zabulon said.

"I will watch on TV in Israel to find out what will happen in Afghanistan," he said.

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But in a recent interview with WION news, 61-year-old Simintov said he would remain in Kabul to "maintain the synagogue" of which he is the sole caretaker.

Kahana, the businessman, told Israeli media that Simintov's decision to remain was linked to his refusal to grant his wife a religious divorce, known as a  "get".

Kahana also told Haaretz that US officials had told him that a rabbi had once been flown into Kabul, during the time of US invasion that overthrew the Taliban, to assist Simintov in granting his wife a religious divorce, but that the rabbi reportedly "did not show up".

Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, head of the conference of European Rabbis, tweeted on Wednesday that his own group once tried to have a news correspondent in Afghanistan "administer the divorce" but Simintov refused.

The last Jew of Afghanistan is an ethnic Tajik who hails from Herat.