Afghanistan’s last Jew finally leaves the country, reportedly headed to US

Zebulon Simantov crosses the border to a neighboring country with the help of an ultra-Orthodox Brooklyn fixer and an Israeli-American businessman, report says

Zebulun Simantov is seen in a country neighboring Afghanistan, a number of hours after crossing the border, September 2021. (Screenshot/Kan)
Zebulun Simantov is seen in a country neighboring Afghanistan, a number of hours after crossing the border, September 2021. (Screenshot/Kan)

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.

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.

This Aug. 29, 2009 photo
shows Zebulon Simentov, the last known Jew living in Afghanistan and the caretaker and sole member of Afghanistan’s only working synagogue, as he prepares Shabbat dinner in the kitchen of his Kabul home. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)

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.

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