In the midst of the turmoil and exodus in Afghanistan, the last known Jew left the country on Friday. There is yet another grim milestone in the country’s history that was once home to a significant Jewish population. Zebulon Simentov has been living in Kabul for decades and is in his early 60s. The only Jewish synagogue in the country was maintained by him. As a long-term resident of Afghanistan, Simentov has observed political turmoil and regime changes. In the late 1990s, he was in Afghanistan during the previous rule of the Taliban.
According to CNN, an Israeli-American businessman named Moti Kahana claimed Simentov and 30 others traveled by van to ‘a neighboring country’ while traversing Afghanistan’s mountainous terrain. Kahana’s organization arranged Simentov’s escape, according to the news report. Several Taliban checkpoints had to be passed by Simentov and those traveling with him on their way out of the country.
Until the mid-19th century, Afghanistan had a large Jewish community of about 40,000 people. The numbers declined for a variety of reasons. After Israel’s formation in 1948, the majority of Jews emigrated to the country. According to reports, Simentov initially refused to leave Afghanistan. His neighbors convinced him to flee as they warned that he may become a target of, if not the Taliban, then ISIS-Khorasan (ISIS-K).