The last member of Afghanistan’s Jewish community has left the country after Taliban takeover. Zebulon Simentov, who lived in a dilapidated synagogue in Kabul, kept kosher and prayed in Hebrew, endured decades of war as the country’s centuries-old Jewish community rapidly dwindled. But the Taliban takeover last month seems to have been the last straw.
The last Jew, 62-year-old Simentov and 29 of his neighbors, nearly all of them women and children, have been taken to a “neighboring country.” Israel’s Kan public broadcaster aired footage of the evacuation, showing a bus full of people traveling across what appeared to be Afghanistan, with all the faces blurred except for Simentov’s. The group will be reaching out to U.S. and Israeli authorities to find a permanent home for Simentov, whose estranged wife and children live in Israel. For years, Simentov refused to grant his wife a divorce under Jewish law, which could open him up to legal repercussions in Israel. They group joined an exodus of tens of thousands of Afghans who have fled since the Taliban swept across the country last month. In the late 19th century, Afghanistan was home to some 40,000 Jews, many of them Persian Jews who had fled forced conversion in neighboring Iran. The community’s decline began with an exodus to Israel after its creation in 1948. In an interview with The Associated Press in 2009, Simentov said the last Jewish families left after the 1979 Soviet invasion.