Afghanistan's final Jew ponders his own exodus
Next door neighbor was second-to-last Jew in nation before death from old age
Zabulon Simintov, a restaurateur in his fifties who resides in the Afghanistan capital of Kabul has a unique distinction. He is the final Jew known to reside in the entire nation of Afghanistan. Simintov's next door neighbor was the second-to-last Jew known to live in Afghanistan, but he passed away from old age some time ago.
Zabulon Simintov is careful to remove his skullcap before entering his cafe in a dilapidated building that also houses Afghanistan's last synagogue.
The community was several thousand strong at the turn of the 20th century and had spread across several cities. The community here had limited contact with other Jews living abroad. The Jewish community here left the country en masse for the newly created state of Israel.
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Simintov is careful to remove his skullcap before entering his cafe in a dilapidated building that also houses Afghanistan's last synagogue. Simintov has become something of a celebrity over the years. His rivalry with the next-to-last Jew inspired a play.
Deeply aware of Afghanistan's extremely conservative Muslim culture, Simintov tries not to advertise his identity to protect the Balkh Bastan or Ancient Balkh kebab cafe he opened four years ago, naming it after a northern Afghan province. "All food here is prepared by Muslims," he said.
His cafe now faces closure because kebabs are not selling well, due to deteriorating security in the city that has made visitors here scarce.
He says that he used to rely on hotel catering orders but even these have dried up as foreign troops begin to withdraw from Afghanistan. "Hotels used to order food for 400 to 500 people. Four or five stoves were busy from afternoon to evening," he said. "I plan to close my restaurant next March and rent its space."
Simintov says his wife and daughters left for Israel, but he decided to stay behind with his Afghan "brothers."
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