Last known member of Afghanistan’s Jewish community leaves country, taking dozens of women and children with him

Zebulon Simentov lived in and maintained the one Synagogue in Kabul, surviving partially off donations from abroad. A well-known determine within the Afghan capital, Simentov, who’s in his early 60s, had lived by means of a long time of battle and political turmoil, together with the Taliban’s earlier rule over the nation from 1996 and 2001.

Simentov and 30 others traveled by van over Afghanistan’s mountainous terrain and negotiated a number of Taliban checkpoints earlier than coming into “a neighboring nation” on Monday, the Jewish New Yr Rosh Hashana, mentioned Moti Kahana, an Israel-American businessman and philanthropist who organized his escape.

Simentov has been credited with serving to to avoid wasting dozens of kids by refusing to depart them behind in Afghanistan, mentioned Kahana.

Historic proof suggests Afghanistan was as soon as residence to a large Jewish group. It reached 40,000 within the mid-Nineteenth century and started declining round 1870 with the passage of anti-Jewish measures, in accordance with the American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise, a nonprofit group. Many of the remaining members of the nation’s Jewish group left following Israel’s creation in 1948 after which in 1979 after the Soviet invasion, the group mentioned.

Simentov’s standing because the final member of the group to dwell in Afghanistan has acquired widespread media consideration in latest a long time, with quite a few experiences detailing his persistent refusal to depart the nation, even after his wife and children relocated to Israel.
Throughout an interview with CNN in 2010, Simentov recounted previous experiences with the Taliban, describing how the group “interfered in everybody’s enterprise.” Simentov advised CNN he was arrested 4 instances throughout the Taliban’s earlier rule and that he was crushed whereas in custody.

The latest US withdrawal and subsequent Taliban takeover triggered an exodus of hundreds of individuals from the nation, together with international nationals, Afghans who had labored with American and British forces and long-persecuted ethnic and spiritual minorities, such because the Hazaras, who feared they’d be killed as soon as the Taliban returned to energy.

Regardless of the hazard, Simentov initially refused to depart his residence, mentioned Kahana.

His neighbors, nevertheless, satisfied him that it was not secure, and it if the Taliban did not get to him, the Islamist militant group ISIS-Khorasan (ISIS-Okay) might make an instance of him. They’d advised him individuals had been speaking about him and he was going to get killed, Kahana mentioned.

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He believed Simentov lastly conceded “when he might hear extra taking pictures within the space, and when the Individuals left and the airport was closed.”

Kahana runs a US-based group known as GDC Inc., which gives humanitarian diplomacy and consulting for safety and logistics in troublesome areas of the world. It facilitated the escape of the final Jewish households out of Syria’s Aleppo, and arranged buses from Syria into Israel in 2016 so ladies and kids might obtain medical test ups.

The unique plan was for Kahana’s safety workforce to take Simentov and 18 others and get them overseas. However after they arrived, there was round 100 different individuals with him.

In the long run, 30 individuals along with Simentov had been allowed to go, virtually all ladies and kids, Kahana mentioned.

The way in which out of Afghanistan was “scary and harmful,” Kahana mentioned. The lengthy journey consisted of sleeping on flooring and passing by means of Taliban checkpoints.

On the first border crossing they had been advised they may not enter as a bunch of 31, solely three individuals might cross at a time, Kahana mentioned. Simentov refused for the group to be break up up and they also needed to drive 14 hours to the subsequent border crossing he mentioned.

A nervous 24 hours adopted for Kahana when the group misplaced communication for a day earlier than they lastly arrived to security on Wednesday night. He’s withholding the title of the nation for his or her security.

“He noticed a chance to assist his neighbor’s youngsters by leaving and it was getting too harmful to remain,” Kahana mentioned of Simentov. “He actually saved the youngsters by taking them with him.”

And of the nation’s solely Synagogue? Simentov’s neighbors advised him they are going to preserve it maintained, Kahana mentioned.

CNN’s Paula Hancocks contributed to this report.

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