May 10th, 2010
09:03 AM ET

Afghanistan's last Jew vows to stay put

Kabul, Afghanistan — Zablon Simintov is always guaranteed the best seat in his local synagogue here, but the privilege comes with a downside: he's the last Jew in Afghanistan.

The country's 800-year-old Jewish community - an estimated 40,000 strong at its peak - is now a party of one.

But Simintov, for his part, isn't going anywhere soon. For more than a decade, he has refused to join his wife and two teenage daughters in Israel.

"My family call me all the time and say, 'Come here, you're the last Jew in Afghanistan, what are you doing there?' " he says.

Simintov, a former carpet dealer, refuses to answer that question. "I don't know why I'm still living here," he says. "It's God's will."

He hasn't seen his daughters - now ages 14 and 16 - since his one trip to Israel 12 years ago.

But the bald and bespectacled Simintov says he is content guarding a cupboard full of dusty prayer books - one is 400 years old, he says - spending holidays with visitors from Europe and the U.S. and surviving off donations from Jews around the world.

Historical evidence suggests a sizable Jewish community in Afghanistan since the Middle Ages, according to the American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise, a nonprofit group.

Afghanistan's Jewish population reached 40,000 in the mid-19th century, the group says, and began declining around 1870 with the passage of anti-Jewish measures.

Israel's creation in 1948 drew most of Afghanistan's remaining Jews.

Simintov's synagogue - the last in Afghanistan's capital - sits inconspicuously in a courtyard behind busy city streets, though a close inspection reveals Stars of David in second-story metal railings. The interior is adorned only by broken light fixtures and ceiling fans.

But Simintov says he is hardly in hiding. "They're all like my brothers here," he said of his fellow Afghans. "It doesn't make a difference whether I'm here or in Israel."

That wasn't the case under Taliban rule, which ended with the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, though Taliban forces have been resurgent in parts of the country.

Simintov says he was arrested four times under Taliban rule and that he was beaten while in custody.

"The Taliban was a problem," he says. "They interfered in everyone's business, but now they're gone, they're finished."

Which means that Simintov is more inclined than ever to stay put.

soundoff (80 Responses)
  1. karek40

    Anyone ever think perhaps living with his wife is not as bad as living with the Taliban.

    May 13, 2010 at 7:26 am | Report abuse |
  2. TT

    It's amusing to see some of the posters praying to Jesus for the last Jew in Kabul.
    I would venture to say very few Americans are even aware that Jews don't believe Jesus was the son of God.
    Most Jews are probably glad to see the Muslims taking the heat from the Goyim for a change.

    May 13, 2010 at 3:18 am | Report abuse |
  3. sophie

    He has been in the media for years now and no one is going to kill him. This isn't the first time and it won't be the last time this story is covered. He himself says he is treated like a brother by his fellow Afghans. Obviously the taliban was a problem and they continue to be a problem and hopefully they will be removed of this earth, but unless the taliban show up in his neighborhood...I wouldn't worry about his safey.

    May 13, 2010 at 2:33 am | Report abuse |
  4. miki

    this guy is a total nut. his place is in israel with his family. his children either miss him, in which case he is guilty of breaking their heart, or they no longer do, in which case he shoul d go to israel nd try to makie up formlost tiem. no staying in kabul on his own is worth the sacrifice of the family. thsi story si a waste of tiem too.

    May 13, 2010 at 2:17 am | Report abuse |
  5. Jack

    Well bless his heart. Guts and determination goes a long way with most people. However one must consider that his knowledge and faith left him alone. This story reveals more about the man, than his shared faith.

    May 12, 2010 at 11:55 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Vladimich

    Well John,
    There is no such thing as last Jew, nether such concept as the first Jew! Only the 10nth Jew :) The good lord has kept us over the years!

    And the joke is that, the last Jew in Afghanistan has build 2 temples, one he prays in and the other he would not step into! :)

    May 12, 2010 at 11:43 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Iron Man

    Facts about 'Palestine' :
    1. Palestine is not an Arab word. It is a Roman geo-political word use to describe the land of the Jews after the Jewish revolt in 70AD.

    2. There was never a 'Palestine' country nor government nor king nor empire nor dilplomatic relations nor ancient coins nor artifact depicting the kingdom of 'Palestine' in history.

    3. Lots of 'Palestinians' are not even from 'Palestine' . Yassir Arafat was an Egyptian.

    May 12, 2010 at 9:46 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Bob

    rs1201, if thats the case can you explain what your doing in Palestine?

    May 12, 2010 at 8:18 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Jay

    My bad. I meant to post he might be hung like a "BULL" and taking care of the Afghan women.

    May 12, 2010 at 7:55 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Jay

    He might be hung like and taking care of the Afghan women!

    May 12, 2010 at 7:53 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Michelle

    This Rabbi may be living on his own, but he is clearly eating the food of a village. As Hillary Clinton has said, "It takes a village." Did he eat everyone? I am Jewish and embarrased by this man's physical appearance. He should leave and raise his family as Jewish tradition dictates. Is he afraid of his wife? Or is the food that good in Afghanistan?

    May 12, 2010 at 7:31 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Truth Commission

    Jew, Muslim, Christian and other perceived gods are the tragedy, curse and addiction that poisons the mind, divides, corrupts and destroys humanity. And when you mix religion and politics, the mix is criminal and deadly. Such are the right wing fundamentalist fanatics... there as here, as everywhere.

    May 12, 2010 at 7:27 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Eric

    Sheldon, you are so out-of-line with your unfair comments. Shame on you! This rabbi is a hero and a role model for all Americans. Please read your Torah before commentiing on him again.

    May 12, 2010 at 7:24 pm | Report abuse |
  14. webster smith

    "The Last Jew in Kabul" starring Tom Hanks

    May 12, 2010 at 6:46 pm | Report abuse |
  15. tk

    Maybe they should treat him like they treat muslims in Israel.

    May 12, 2010 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
  16. Marc J.

    Maybe this guy is not playing with a full deck.

    May 12, 2010 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |
  17. Charles Morris

    forget the prayers. There is no God.

    May 12, 2010 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
  18. Bill

    this guy has abandonded his family and relies on the kindness of strangers. hey, a Jewish Blanche DuBois. Loser.

    May 12, 2010 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse |
  19. Aviva

    I'm Jewish; while I admire his pride and his will to fight for his home, I think that he is making a huge mistake by not putting his family first, which, in the Jewish tradition, is very important. He should put his pride aside and be with his wife and children. I don't think many Jews would disagree with that.

    May 12, 2010 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
  20. pooche

    lucky Kabul.

    May 12, 2010 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
  21. davonskevort

    clearly he has issues with the wife or pride regardless this is no way for a man to behave who has a family. Who is teaching his children, who is paying the bills? I am Jewish and I dont think this is right.

    May 12, 2010 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |
  22. SD

    Hey Omar,
    Real fair of you to reference the dhimmi tax your people force non-Muslims to pay in order to live in Muslim-dominated countries. Tell you what......fair is fair....assuming you live in the U.S., please feel free to mail your cheque to the IRS before May 30th. Assuming you earn $40,000/year, that makes it an even four grand. We won't talk about the "late filing penalties," goof!

    May 12, 2010 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
  23. Sean

    When someone mentions a 5000 year old book that recommends I murder my neighbor for toiling on the Sabbath Im lost in translation...Forget about the bible, it was written by fictional characters and doesnt hold water in the real world, only in Israel, Brooklyn and small parts of Florida.

    May 12, 2010 at 11:30 am | Report abuse |
  24. Reformer7

    I spent a few minutes reading all the comments posted here. Please, do not fight one another because this article is not about anyone of you. It is about a man who, in my opinion, is confused and a little delusional. Throughout human history, when God calls or speaks to someone, he gives them a specific set of clearly defined objectives and mandates. When he asked Abraham to leave his home in "Ur of the Chaldees", he never instructed him to abandon his wife and children. They were with him everywhere he went. I am not convinced Zablon Simintov has any specific instructions from God to abandon his wife and children, live on handouts from other people [even if they are his Jewish people], or refuse to contribute to the maintenance of the society he lives in. What are his mandates in Afghanistan? He is not preaching the word of God to Afghans on the street or teaching in the synagogue. Matter of fact, the synagogue is empty. Very soon, he will be having pidgeons and rats for company. I think the man is experiencing some mental sickness [this is the best way I can define anyone who sits alone in an empty house of worship]. God is not a loner. This man needs to be rescued immediately.

    May 12, 2010 at 10:07 am | Report abuse |
  25. Vasanth Rajendran

    Why does every discussion about Judaism or Islam center around the Arab Israeli conflict? surely there is more to both these religions than the narrow minded despots make out?

    May 12, 2010 at 8:33 am | Report abuse |
  26. STEELWOLVES

    "You don't stay where you're not wanted?" Yeah, sure. You just take over the societies you inhabit.

    May 12, 2010 at 7:25 am | Report abuse |
  27. rs1201

    I think he's delusional. Why the heck stay in a country whose people hate you and could decide to put an end to your life anytime. That's not the Jewish way. We don't stay where we're not wanted.

    May 12, 2010 at 6:32 am | Report abuse |
  28. Jay

    I am not against religion or race – but it seems to me he is completely blind to the possible dangers that lurks around him. Obviously he has maintained some sort of harmony with the local community he has been living in – but as many have said this publicity is surely bad for him.
    Taliban or some other extremist organisation might see this as an opportunity to get some publicity for their causes and make a banner like 'Afghanistan Has No Jews' & remonstrate it with a picture of his Head Stuck On A Pole.

    So if he does not see this danger surely the Israeli government should – of this potential real threat.

    May 12, 2010 at 6:32 am | Report abuse |
  29. GODS' PROPERTY

    Please the Israeli Govt should come and rescue this man before it's too late.

    May 12, 2010 at 6:17 am | Report abuse |
  30. surfkev

    thanks to cnn for blowing his cover, oops

    May 12, 2010 at 4:05 am | Report abuse |
  31. Mavis Twice

    It sounds like there was a synagogue before 1948 which means it isn't political, rather than to do with Israel. Israel is interesting because of Judaism, not the other way around. This synagogue would be particularly interesting to visit, in my opinion.

    May 12, 2010 at 2:32 am | Report abuse |
  32. Lee Smith

    Focus on the story and stop using it as an excuse for anti-semitic tirades.

    May 11, 2010 at 11:55 pm | Report abuse |
  33. E. Elliott

    Hey, Omar,. maybe free people do not want to pay a religion tax. Ever think of justice? What religion tax do civilized States make Musilms pay? We let your faith speak feely in civilized countries. How many of Falwells clones are spreading the word of Christ in Saudi Arabia? This is no longer the dark ages, no matter what Chaney thinks. A person's right end at the end of their nose and that applies to the mythical commandments of this faith. Justice, voting, women with equal rights - it all has the old guys with long beards scared. Get over it.

    May 11, 2010 at 10:54 pm | Report abuse |
  34. E. Elliott

    It is always good to see an honest man with out fear who sticks a finger in Goliath's eye.
    Who are these people that think they know God's will? What huberis! And what bigot brings our common Christian faith in to an issue like this? Madness. Regretable pride, which Milton wrote was possibly the first sin.

    May 11, 2010 at 10:45 pm | Report abuse |
  35. dbm - Strong Island,NY

    Are you serious? Get the hell out of there!
    Afghanistan is just a waste land filled with hate and destruction! Taliban's ramification is still there!
    Get out while you can! Go live with your family! That's what GOD wants you to do!
    Family comes first!
    God bless you and may God cleanse Afghanistan from the Taliban and all the hate that was left by them thugs!

    Jesus is love!

    May 11, 2010 at 9:12 pm | Report abuse |
  36. Eve

    Maybe he is enjoying the attention and notoriety he gets by staying there more than he would be being a regular dad to his kids

    May 11, 2010 at 7:48 pm | Report abuse |
  37. Rizzooooooooooooooo

    @ Frank Rizzo go back to school

    May 11, 2010 at 6:40 pm | Report abuse |
  38. Lawrence

    "We let them live because God – Allah order us to live together if they dont breake the peace agreement and pays the Tax."

    How noble of you, to let them live if they only pay you money.

    Perhaps though you should have mentioned that includes only Christians, Zoroastrians, and Jews? All other infidels are prohibited, aren't they?

    May 11, 2010 at 6:14 pm | Report abuse |
  39. erky

    Iraq Paramedic, at least be consistent in your ignorance.
    It doesn't matter how devout he is, your God will throw him into hell for not believing in Jesus isn't that right?

    May 11, 2010 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
  40. Frank Rizzo

    Not surprise these people believe their the choose ones above all the human race, everywhere they go they start problems it's part of who they are; how sad.

    May 11, 2010 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
  41. moises

    THE STATE OF ISRAEL WAS FORMED IN 1948. THE PALESTIANS HAD BEEN LIVING THERE BEFORE 1948. NOW THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH AN ISRAELI STATE, BUT THERE IS SOMETHING WRONG WHEN ISRAEL BUILDS SETTLEMENTS IN LAND THAT'S NOT THERE. IF YOU ARE AN ARAB-AMERICAN AN TRAVELED TO THE WEST BANK YOU APPALLED BY THE VIOLATIONS OF HUMAN RIGHTS AGAINST THE ARABS.

    May 11, 2010 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
  42. Louis

    On the contrary, Moises. He is sole defender of a faith and a freedom in a war torn country.... Unfortunately for the Palestinians in the west bank and gaza, they are not "defending" anything theirs, they are the "fighting" as the pawns of Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria and Iran each of which feels there's no problem with using the Palestinian people as so much disposable waste. The sooner the Palestinians realize that, the sooner they will be on the path to a more peaceful and fulfilling life, and the better for them.

    If the Palestinians want to defend something, then they should defend their right to exist without the yoke of their true middle-eastern oppressors being those who use them inhumanely- read here Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria and Iran.

    May 11, 2010 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse |
  43. moises

    this is not the alamo. he's not defending anything in kabul.
    but the palestians in the west bank are defending whats theirs.

    May 11, 2010 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
  44. sam

    I am Greek, omer–turks not not only displaced my people they murdered them.

    May 11, 2010 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
  45. sam

    His wife is relieved to be away from him.

    May 11, 2010 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
  46. Nomad

    His wife must be a real pain in the rump!!

    May 11, 2010 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
  47. Louis

    I suppose that the defenders of the Alamo should have left there and gone home to their respective wives and families. And then perhaps that iconic moment in time, the defense of the Alamo, the defense of a non-descript simple mission, which today, represents all of the the sacrifices made by all of the individuals who care even an iota for the freedoms we enjoy, would never have happened. And what a tragedy that would have been.

    May 11, 2010 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
  48. Louis

    Perhaps, knowing that his wife and daughters are safe from harm and apparently living relatively comfortably in a secure surrounding gives him the strength to do something that noone else in the world is capable of doing or cares to do. I believe that this is one of those "one man can make a difference" scenarios.

    May 11, 2010 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse |
  49. Bette

    This guy is a free-loading rabbi? He preaches to no one, provides comfort to no one (not even his family) and lives off of others.
    His obligation is with his family first. If things change he can go back to Afganistan and resusitate the temple.

    May 11, 2010 at 12:16 pm | Report abuse |
  50. MO

    Will the LAst Jew in Kabul please turn off the lights.......elvis has left the bldg....

    May 11, 2010 at 12:10 pm | Report abuse |
  51. Ronald

    This Guy Sounds and looks like Barney Frank...Hejust needs a small mustache.

    May 11, 2010 at 11:24 am | Report abuse |
  52. moises

    I think he's just avoiding facing reality. How about working, being productive for society and taking care of his daughters. I can't feel sorry for this guy.

    May 11, 2010 at 9:48 am | Report abuse |
  53. davec

    Omer, I think you forgot about the Armenian genocide at the hands of the Turks. Two million were Armenians were killed by Turks.

    May 11, 2010 at 9:36 am | Report abuse |
  54. Omer Parlak

    It is a good thing to see all religions all around the world.
    We real muslim like that .
    We muslims never kill any Jews or Cristians Until they betraye us.
    We Turkish Muslims gave all Jews Land and Freedom when they were genocide by Cristians during 15th century.We gave all Cristians Freedom to live under Islamic Rule during Abbasi's and Ottomans for Centuries If they pay their %10 Tax.We never genocide any race or religion.Look at the history , if we would have done genocide , Today we never talk about those nations : Sirbians,Crotians,Romanians,Russians,Hungarians,Bulgarians,Greeks,Austrians,Spanish and of course Israil.
    We let them live because God – Allah order us to live together if they dont breake the peace agreement and pays the Tax.
    Look at what Cristians did in last 2 century and Look at the Jews did in Gazza last year.

    So you should be thankfull to God whom is the only one and we all return to him for what he order us * .

    May 11, 2010 at 9:14 am | Report abuse |
  55. D

    So he abandons his wife and children and is a hero......give me a break. The man is mentally ill and irresponsible.

    May 11, 2010 at 8:25 am | Report abuse |
  56. Rotorhead

    @Tony Russo: As the article states, "Afghanistan's Jewish population reached 40,000 in the mid-19th century, the group says, and began declining around 1870 with the passage of anti-Jewish measures." I guess that's when the West made them pass those laws. All the ills of the world are the cause of the West and no one has to take responsibility for anything.

    Idiot!

    May 11, 2010 at 8:03 am | Report abuse |
  57. Mark L.

    From one Jew to another, all I can really say is God Bless You, Zablon Simintov. GOD BLESS YOU, ALWAYS !! You are a Brave Soul !!

    May 11, 2010 at 8:02 am | Report abuse |
  58. Amanda

    What anti-Jewish measures? Where is the concrete evidence? CNN is quite irresponsible makign this kidn of claim. The only place where anit-semitism thrived before modern Israel was Europe. The Jews of Afgahnitan left because of the founding of Israel, and later because of Soviet invasion that spiralled doen the country to what it is today, i.e. chaos.

    May 11, 2010 at 7:44 am | Report abuse |
  59. JP

    @tony russo

    you clearly don't know afghan history don't you!?!?! first it was the soviets that ruined everything, and allowed the taliban to rise up and mess things up even more for the afghan people, as a matter of fact during the period of time when afghanistan was a prosperous nation the society was modeled after western society! and the people were very very happy!!

    May 11, 2010 at 7:18 am | Report abuse |
  60. JP

    none of you idiots can figure out why he's staying?? it's something called pride....maybe all you who don't understand should invest in some of it, then you would understand

    May 11, 2010 at 7:16 am | Report abuse |
  61. JohannesburgSA

    Islam is a tolerant religion. We are taught in the Quran to respect fellow religions. Anyone who believes otherwise is incorrect.

    May 11, 2010 at 6:55 am | Report abuse |
  62. hinduphycho

    Well this only prove that Islam is a tolerant religon.
    This one jew is living amongst so called "extremist-middleaged" Muslim people and
    no one is harming him.

    May 11, 2010 at 5:40 am | Report abuse |
  63. dan in moscow

    surviving off donations from Jews – thats the key phrase as to why he stays. much more difficult to be unemployed in israel.

    May 11, 2010 at 1:47 am | Report abuse |
  64. Katy

    He doesn't know why he is still living there? God's will? What exactly is he doing there? I mean other then having the best seat in an empty building. Is he sheltering and feeding the hungry? Preaching wisdom and tolerance? To whom? himself!!! This is a lazy fat dude living off charitable donations hiding from his family's responsibilities, yet regarded as a hero. Remarkable isn't it!!! .He has not seen his children in 12 years for cry out loud..If I was his wife I would drag him by his earlobes out of there.

    May 11, 2010 at 12:31 am | Report abuse |
  65. tony russo

    May almighty god protect him from harm, If you read afghanistan history there was jews, christians, hindu, and muslims living side by side,,,, but the west interventions made every to become enemies.

    May 11, 2010 at 12:11 am | Report abuse |
  66. lorne

    Joe #5

    It's really a shame that you have to turn everything into an anti-israeli rant instead of just commenting on the topic of this article.
    i hope that you are gone soon. i predict that israel will be here long after you are gone.

    May 10, 2010 at 11:15 pm | Report abuse |
  67. kevin viegas

    This guy is one of the few brave people I have come across. Imagine being a Jew when the Taliban were in power. It requires guts and determination to survive the repression and tyranny of the Taliban rule. That he has survived such dark periods under the Taliban rule, I am sure god is with him and will protect him all the time.

    God bless you!!

    May 10, 2010 at 11:04 pm | Report abuse |
  68. David

    His obligation to leave is his obligation to raise his children.In America, a man who hadn't visited his children in 12 years would be called a deadbeat dad.The article says he is living off of donations from Jews from around the world.Who is soliciting these donations for him? Once again,in America he would be called a mooch.Is he a Rabbi?Does he have some special calling to remain in Afghanistan or does he just like the view.I think he owes his children the biggest apology a man can give.

    May 10, 2010 at 9:46 pm | Report abuse |
  69. Patrick

    I don't understand those who say that he has some obligation to leave. Would they say that Jews had an obligation to leave Germany during the NAZIs? Or that blacks had an obligation to leave the deep south? As a Catholic, I am proud of him. He is setting an example for all Afghans. He is saying that his country is worth staying for and worth fighting for. Would an American choose to leave his or her home because life was hard or would we fight for our homes? I think of the movie, "Red Dawn" where children fight for the home they love rather than flee for safety.

    May 10, 2010 at 8:16 pm | Report abuse |
  70. Katy

    Could it be his wife just does not want him, so his interpret his stay as God's will!..He sounds delusional, if not comical...

    May 10, 2010 at 7:05 pm | Report abuse |
  71. BUBBA -- ALABAMA STYLE!!!

    Maybe he wasn't paying attention!

    May 10, 2010 at 6:59 pm | Report abuse |
  72. al from IL

    thank you Joe

    May 10, 2010 at 6:15 pm | Report abuse |
  73. David`

    May be he is cooking some thing!!!!!!!! for someone.

    May 10, 2010 at 6:13 pm | Report abuse |
  74. insane1

    Iraq Paramedic,

    God (If he actually exists) is trying to protect him. God is actually having his family and friends trying to convince him to leave. He is refusing to leave the snake's den to go see his daughters. To quote Clint Eastwood "Gods got nothing to do with it"

    May 10, 2010 at 5:40 pm | Report abuse |
  75. George

    The Taliban has known of his presence through their entire rule. This isn't the first time he has made the news here. Before the war there was an article about there being two jews left at the synagouge. I can't say wether it would be best for him to stay or go that is his decision.

    May 10, 2010 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
  76. el rey

    "He hasn't seen his daughters – now ages 14 and 16 – since his one trip to Israel 12 years ago."

    Anyone else see something wrong with this picture? Why would a father not live with his two young children or at the very least visit on a regular basis? Sorry, this guy garners no sympathy from me...kids should come first, then your ideals.

    May 10, 2010 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
  77. ARMY SGT

    This guy is brave but you need to know when you are following gods will, and when you are being stupid. The Taliban control the local population through intimiadtion and murder. If he knows what good for him he will leave.

    May 10, 2010 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
  78. Iraq Paramedic

    I believe if the man is truely in devout prayer with GOD & he is being told to stay that GOD will protect him. Everybody should say a prayer of protection for him.
    You do what ever GOD leads you to do sir & may GOD bless & keep you, in JESUS name I pray; AMEN.
    May GOD bless & keep us all !!!!!!!!!!!!

    May 10, 2010 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
  79. Carole Clarke

    He needs to come away before they kill him. Now that the media has pinpointed him for the Taliban assassins, Israel should send in a small team to get him and the prayer books out and to Israel. He's asking for matrydom and that's not his call. There's enough trouble in that country without one man stirring up more.

    May 10, 2010 at 12:34 pm | Report abuse |
  80. joe

    a little drop of water will make a difference than nothing

    May 10, 2010 at 10:09 am | Report abuse |