Politik

„When the Taliban realized, I was a Jew, they let me go“

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Kabul – Zaboab Simintov (59) is standing in front of his house in Kabul’s streets, where on any given day there is a risk of a bomb attack, with a kippah on his head as if it was the most natural thing in the world. It is late afternoon, the shops are open and there is a lot of traffic in downtown.

He is not worried to wear the head covering openly on the streets like some Jews in Berlin-Neukölln would be. „All my neighbors in Kabul know me. No one here has a problem with Jews.“

Simintov isn’t just one of many Jews. He is the only Jew who lives in Afghanistan. That’s what he says and official governmental agencies say exactly the same. BILD reporters paid Simintov a visit in Kabul.

„It’s true, I am the last Jew who lives here. My family immigrated to Israel and so did many others. Most of them left Afghanistan when Israel was founded and after the communists took over the country for a brief time.“

According to estimates, up to 40,000 Jews lived in Afghanistan until the early 19th century.

His family, he has five siblings altogether, have moved to Israel. His wife and his two daughters, too. He has vowed to never move there. „I don’t speak hebrew. I am an Afghan. Why should I live in a different country?“

Simintov was born in Herat and has always lived in Afghanistan. No matter what has happened to him in the past. Even when the Taliban invaded the country, he did not escape and remained in the city. The terrorists arrested Simintov and kept him in prison for three weeks. Afterwards, they let him go. „They thought I was a missionary who wanted to convert people to Christianity. When they realized that I was a Jew, they let me go.“

Today, he lives in a 161-square-foot apartment in a house in downtown. He used to work as a dealer in precious stones. Now, he takes care of the synagogue which is located on the same floor as his apartment. He has lamps and prayer stones from friends in Israel. As the only living Jew in the country, he prays here in solitude.

The authorities in Kabul are aware of the synagogue. Simintov knows President Ashraf Ghani personally. The synagogue was almost destroyed by a bomb attack, which was aimed at the German embassy in Afghanistan, when two trucks exploded.

„I felt the walls shaking“, said Simintov. Young Muslim Afghans helped him rebuilt the place. Simintov: „I am very happy that my Muslim friends support me so much and I hope that more Jews from all over the world will come for a visit. Currently, I am looking urgently for a Torah for the synagogue.”

So far, someone has yet to send him the Hebrew bible to Kabul.

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Simintov is not afraid of future attacks. However, he is sceptical of the peace talks between the US and the Taliban. “I hope that Afghanistan will never again be ruled by the Taliban. Because then they will think that I am a spy. And I won’t let anyone destroy my synagogue again…”

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