Seventy years ago, there were still about 5,000 Jews in Afghanistan. In 1951, when they were allowed to emigrate, most of them moved to Israel and the United States.
In the 1960’s, a large number of Afghan Jews left the country in search of a better life, but not due to religious persecution. By 1969, there were only around 300.
After the Soviet invasion of 1979, many more left, and by 1996 there were only 10 Jews left in Afghanistan, most of them in Kabul. By 2004, the number had fallen to two: Zablon Simintov and Isaac Levy.
Levy relied on charity to sustain his life, while Simentov ran a carpet and jewelry store. Both of them claimed to be in charge of the Kabul synagogue and the owner of its Torah, and both accused the other of theft. Their feud went on until Levy’s death in 2005.
Throughout, they both spent time in Taliban jails. The Taliban even confiscated the disputed Torah. Their relationship was so rocky that it inspired a play called “The Last Two Jews of Kabul.” For 7 years, Simentov has remained the last Jew in Afghanistan.
He is actively trying to recover the confiscated Torah, and claims the man who confiscated it is now in Guantanamo Bay. Though Simentov has a wife and two daughters in Israel, he says he has no intention of joining them there. Where did all the Afghan Jews go? More than 10,000 of them and those of their descent now live in Israel. In New York City, there are around 200 more families.