KABUL – Afghanistan’s last member of the Jewish community, Zebulon Simentov has departed the country.
The Associated Press said on Wednesday that Simentov, 62, and 29 of his neighbors, virtually all of whom were women and children, were evacuated to a “neighboring nation” by Moti Kahana, an Israeli-American businessman who heads a private security firm that orchestrated the evacuation.
Simentov maintained kosher and worshipped in Hebrew at a crumbling synagogue in Kabul, suffered decades of war while the country’s centuries-old Jewish community shrank.
The Taliban takeover last month, on the other hand, appears to have been the final straw, Associated Press reported.
Simentov, who had previously lived under Taliban authority, was unconcerned, according to Kahana. Kahana, on the other hand, cautioned him that he could be kidnapped or killed by the even more violent Islamic State group.
The evacuation was captured on film by Israel’s Kan public broadcaster, which showed a bus full of people heading over what appeared to be Afghanistan, with all save Simentov’s faces blurred.
They joined tens of thousands of Afghans who have fled the nation since the Taliban took control last month.
In the final days of the 20-year war, the US and its allies prepared a major airlift, but officials recognized that up to 200 Americans, as well as thousands of Afghans who had assisted the military effort, were left behind.
Kahana reportedly said his organisation is in contact with US and Israeli authorities to locate a permanent home for Simentov, who lives in Israel with his estranged wife and children.
Afghanistan’s Jewish Community
A prosperous Jewish community flourished in northern Afghanistan at least 1,000 years ago, according to Hebrew manuscripts discovered in caves.
40,000 Jews lived in Afghanistan in the late 1800s, many of them were Persian Jews fleeing forced conversion in neighboring Iran.
After Israel’s formation in 1948, the community’s downfall began with an exodus to Israel.
Simentov told The Associated Press in 2009 that the last Jewish households left after the Soviet invasion in 1979.
During the Taliban’s prior tenure from 1996 to 2001, he shared the synagogue building with the country’s only other Jew, Isaak Levi, although they detested each other and feuded.
Simentov was born in the western city of Herat in 1959 and has always maintained that Afghanistan is his homeland.
The Taliban, like other Islamic extremist groups, is hostile to Israel, yet under their former reign, they accepted the country’s small Jewish presence.
Apart from the feud, the only other time they came knocking was when they spotted Muslim women wearing full-body burqas frequently visiting Levi.