Following the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan last month, the country’s last remaining Jew, 62-year-old Zebulon Simantov, has fled the country, according to Tuesday reports.
With the United States’ complete withdrawal from Afghanistan at the end of August leaving the country in the hands of the extremist group, Simantov crossed the border to a neighboring country over the weekend, the Kan public broadcaster reported.
He was accompanied by local officials who work with a private security company owned by the Israeli-American businessman Moti Kahana, the report said.
The operation was funded by Moshe Margaretten, a US ultra-Orthodox fixer whose passion is bringing Jews out of danger, according to the report.
It was not immediately clear how or where Simantov had exited Afghanistan.
Kahana, who helped extract people from war-torn Syria, attempted to get Simantov out amid the US withdrawal on behalf of Margaretten. But Simantov refused to leave, reportedly because of his long-standing refusal to grant his Israeli wife a “get,” or decree of divorce. Simantov feared facing Israel’s legal system, which penalizes such a refusal.
But finally, this weekend, Simantov agreed to leave, and is heading to his family in the US instead, according to Kahana.
שמח להודיע שאת החג זבולון לא עשה באפגניסטן . היחידה המיוחדת של החברה שלי חילצה את היהודי האחרון מאפגניסטן עם שלושים נשים וילדים ואת חג הסוכות זבולון יעשה עם משפחתו בניו יורק ???????? חג שמח ושנה טובה pic.twitter.com/Lqsi3inRma
— כהנא מוטי مؤتي كهانا Moti Kahana ???????? ???? ???????? (@motikahana) September 7, 2021
While the Taliban’s spokesperson did say Simantov would be safe in the country during an interview last month, the main fears for Afghanistan’s last Jew arose following an Islamic State suicide bombing amid the US withdrawal.
“His problem isn’t the Taliban, but Islamic State, al-Qaeda. In his case it’s the other crazies that emerge each day now,” Kahana told Kan. “He fears them,” he added.
Simantov was a well-known local personality in Afghanistan. Journalists came to him regularly and some taxi drivers already knew where he lived in Kabul, where many of the streets have no names.
Kahana’s rescue operation of Simantov also brought out some 30 Afghan women and children, he said.
After Simantov refused to leave last month, several would-be rescuers organized the evacuation of women who were at risk, among them members of the country’s national women’s soccer team, along with judges and prosecutors.