Only Two Jews Remain in Afghan City

by Steven Gutkin

Only Two Jews Remain

A roving Associated Press reporter has discovered that the once-thriving Jewish community of 40,000 people in Afghanistan has dwindled to just two men-"and they dislike each other."

Steven Gutkin, the AP reporter, wrote from Kabul that "Afghanistan's last two Jews-Ishaq Levin and Zebulon Simentov -live at separate ends of the same decaying synagogue in the Afghan capital and are feuding, each claiming to be the rightful owner of the synagogue and its paraphernalia."

Both Levin and Simentov say they have wives and children living in Israel, but stay in Afghanistan because they are owed money here.

Despite the harsh brand of Islam they impose on Muslims, Afghanistan's Taliban rulers have allowed the country's minority religions-Sikhs, Hindus, and these remaining Jews-to practice their faith largely unhindered.

But two years ago the Torah scroll, the holiest object in the synagogue, was confiscated. "It's not clear exactly why or by whom, and no one at the Taliban's Interior Ministry or police would comment," Gutkin wrote.

"Despite large-scale emigration since 1948, an AP reporter who visited the Kabul synagogue in 1980, just after the Soviets invaded, found about 150 Jews attending a lively Sabbath service, highlighted by the ritual circumcision of a newborn Jewish boy.

"Now that boy is gone, and the walls of the synagogue are peeling. The windows are shattered and old prayer books are crumbling in the holy ark. The community, too, seems to be coming to a shabby end."

Based on an Associated Press story