Zablon Simintov

Zablon Simintov

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Zablon Simintov is a Turkmen
Turkmen people
The Turkmen are a Turkic people located primarily in the Central Asian states of Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, and northeastern Iran. They speak the Turkmen language, which is classified as a part of the Western Oghuz branch of the Turkic languages family together with Turkish, Azerbaijani, Qashqai,...

-Afghan
Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

 carpet trader and the caretaker of the only synagogue in Kabul
Kabul
Kabul , spelt Caubul in some classic literatures, is the capital and largest city of Afghanistan. It is also the capital of the Kabul Province, located in the eastern section of Afghanistan...

. , he is believed to be the sole remaining Afghan Jew
Persian Jews
Persian Jews , are Jews historically associated with Iran, traditionally known as Persia in Western sources.Judaism is one of the oldest religions practiced in Iran. The Book of Esther contains some references to the experiences of Jews in Persia...

 still residing in Afghanistan
Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

. His name has also been transcribed in English as Zebulon Simentov, Zabolon Simentov and Zabolon Simantov.

Afghan Jewish conflict


Simintov had lived with the second last remaining Jewish man in Afghanistan, Ishaq Levin, who died on January 26, 2005, aged around 80. The story of Simintov and Levin was the basis for a British play. Simintov deprecated Levin in an interview with British journalist Martin Fletcher
Martin Fletcher
Martin Fletcher is associate editor and former foreign editor of The Times, a British newspaper.He has also worked for The Times as a political journalist, as Washington Bureau Chief, as Belfast correspondent, and as Europe correspondent based in Brussels. He was foreign editor from 2002 and 2006...

. Levin had initially welcomed Simintov but the two fell out permanently when Simintov offered the caretaker help to emigrate to Israel to join the rest of the former Kabul Jewish community. Simintov is adamant that he made the suggestion only as he thought Kabul was too cold for the old man, but the older man took umbrage, thinking that Simintov was trying to take over the synagogue. A feud ensued, with the Taliban becoming involved after both men reported each other to the authorities for alleged wrongdoings ranging from running a brothel to misappropriating religious objects.

Life in Afghanistan


Simintov says it is not easy to practice his religion alone. However, he has obtained special permission from the nearest rabbi, in Tashkent
Tashkent
Tashkent is the capital of Uzbekistan and of the Tashkent Province. The officially registered population of the city in 2008 was about 2.2 million. Unofficial sources estimate the actual population may be as much as 4.45 million.-Early Islamic History:...

, Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan , officially the Republic of Uzbekistan is a doubly landlocked country in Central Asia and one of the six independent Turkic states. It shares borders with Kazakhstan to the west and to the north, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to the east, and Afghanistan and Turkmenistan to the south....

, to slaughter his own meat in line with kosher dietary laws that can normally only be done by a specially trained Jewish butcher. Simintov lives alone in a small room next to an old synagogue
Synagogue
A synagogue is a Jewish house of prayer. This use of the Greek term synagogue originates in the Septuagint where it sometimes translates the Hebrew word for assembly, kahal...

 on Flower Street in Kabul
Kabul
Kabul , spelt Caubul in some classic literatures, is the capital and largest city of Afghanistan. It is also the capital of the Kabul Province, located in the eastern section of Afghanistan...

 and receives donations from Jewish groups abroad and sympathetic Muslim
Muslim
A Muslim, also spelled Moslem, is an adherent of Islam, a monotheistic, Abrahamic religion based on the Quran, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God as revealed to prophet Muhammad. "Muslim" is the Arabic term for "submitter" .Muslims believe that God is one and incomparable...

 locals. His wife and daughters emigrated to Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

. When asked during an interview whether he would go emigrate to Israel, Simintov
retorted, "Go to Israel? What business do I have there? Why should I leave?" In a video interview by Al Jazeera
Al Jazeera
Al Jazeera is an independent broadcaster owned by the state of Qatar through the Qatar Media Corporation and headquartered in Doha, Qatar...

on 17 September 2007, Simentov suggested he may be interested in moving to Israel to join his two daughters.

He says that he receives special kosher for Passover
Passover
Passover is a Jewish holiday and festival. It commemorates the story of the Exodus, in which the ancient Israelites were freed from slavery in Egypt...

 packages from Afghan Jews living in New York. Sometimes, he says, Jewish foreigners visit his home for the high holidays. Simintov has also been quoted as saying: "I don't want my Jewish heritage erased. My father was a rabbi, my grandfather was a rabbi. We were a big, religious family..." However he wears his yarmulke only in private and is hesitant to take visitors inside the synagogue he calls home.

He says that many in Kabul pressure him to convert to Islam. "They are dumb. For me, that kind of talk is like a matchstick you use to light a cigarette. You throw it away without a second thought." He keeps mostly to himself. The business owners on Flower Street, where he lives, call him "Zabolon the Jew." They say they don't know him well but greet him when he passes by. One exception is Karmatullah, a Muslim shopkeeper who stores some of his goods in Simintov's home and who considers Simintov a fellow Afghan first.

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