A glimpse into a dwindled and nigh-lost Jewish community of Kabul:
Zebulon Simentov, who chose to stay behind when his wife and children emigrated to Israel, achieved fame because of a raging feud with the country’s second-last Jew that ended when his rival died in 2005.
A lattice of corrugated iron Star of Davids marks Afghanistan’s only working synagogue, a white-washed, two-story building tucked into a side street in the center of Kabul.
Kebabs, carpets and flowers are served and sold on the ground floor of the synagogue, which has been transformed into businesses over the last 18 months by the country’s sole remaining Jew, who lives upstairs in a small pink room.
“Some of my customers know this is the synagogue and know about the Jew upstairs, but they don’t care and neither do I. I pray my way and he prays his way. I see him as a friend, someone to spend time with,” Ahmad said of his landlord, sitting beside large black and silver wall-hangings depicting Mecca. [Continues…]
One of the saddest vestiges of the conflicts has been the erosion of faiths aside from Islam: the destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan in 2001, the persecution of the Baha’is who thence fled to neighbouring Pakistan, and the increasingly clandestine practice of Christianity among 500 to 8,000 Afghans.
It is a quick (mis)step to indicate the rise in Islam and the Talibanization of Afghanistan as the impetus behind the decline of the faiths: many diminished following the war with the Soviets – animists, for example, suffered during deforestation by the Russian forces.
Zebulon Simentov is a remnant of a happier time, when Jews thrived alongside their Muslim and Christian brothers across North Africa, the Middle East and South Asia.
I wonder if we will see such unity ever again.