Last Jew in Afghanistan will stay put in Kabul — despite efforts to rescue him


The last Jewish resident of Afghanistan will be staying put, according to multiple people involved in an international effort to rescue him.

Zebulon Simantov, 62, has lived in the country all his life and currently resides in the capital of Kabul where he lives in what remains of the country’s last synagogue. He originally hails from the western city of Herat and previously worked as a restaurant owner and carpet dealer, according to past media reports.

Simantov was on board to flee as late as Tuesday. As chaos consumed the streets of Kabul, a rescue mission organized by Moti Kahana, an American-Israeli businessman, was underway.

Kahana, who runs a private security company, helped evacuate some of the last remaining Jews from war-torn Syria in 2014 and is currently involved in multiple ongoing rescue projects around Afghanistan — one of which had been Simantov.

Zebulon Simentov, the last known Jew living in Afghanistan, pours himself a cup of chai, during Shabbat dinner in his Kabul home.

“I dealt with so many crazy people and he is on the top of the list,” Kahana, 53, told The Post, saying the curmudgeonly Semite vacillated until the end.

“On Tuesday my team went to his home and he was packing,” Kahana said, adding that Simantov then suddenly demanded $50,000 as a condition of departure and thwarting the plan.

“I don’t pay people to save their life.”

His wife and daughters left for Israel in 1998.

Zabolon Simantov is literally last Jew in Afghanistan and the caretaker of the only synagogue in Kabul.
Zabolon Simantov is literally the last Jew in Afghanistan and the caretaker of the only synagogue in Kabul.
NurPhoto via Getty Images

“After initially indicating that he wants to come out, he decided that he wants to stay. And if someone wants to stay, that’s up to him,” Mendy Chitrik, chair of the Alliance of Rabbis in Islamic States told The Post.

“He did not say why, but he is quite comfortable over there,” Chitrik said, adding that his organization, which is based in Istanbul, Turkey, has been in touch with Simantov for years and has helped supply him with Matzo and other religious necessities.

Simantov, who lived through the first Taliban era, had indicated his desire to emigrate to Israel in June, telling Voice of America that he didn’t have the stomach for life again under the mullahs.

Simentov is the caretaker and sole member of Afghanistan's only working synagogue.
Simentov is the caretaker and sole member of Afghanistan’s only working synagogue.

“God willing … I will definitely leave by the time the Taliban come,” he said.

Simantov became the country’s last Jew after the death of Yitzhak Levy in 2005. Though they both lived in the same run-down synagogue, their hatred for one another was the stuff of legend. For years the two men spoke mostly to each other in swears and regularly denounced the other to the Taliban authorities. Once during a mutual stint in jail, their arguing was so annoying that their Islamic captors simply released them.

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