jews in afghanistan
January 26, 2005 4:27 AM   Subscribe

And then there was one. Following the death of his neighbour Ishaq Levin, Zebulon Simentov has become the last Jew in Afghanistan. There have been Jews here since at least the eighth century, but now Simentov is on his own.

But the saddest fact of all is the fact that up until his death the two men hated each other.
posted by ciderwoman (20 comments total)

 
This is sad. Although the question begs, how does one have a "functioning synogogue" with one Jew? You need 10 to pray communally.

Separately, W(hy)TF is that guy still there. Come on!
posted by ParisParamus at 4:37 AM on January 26, 2005


"and now I am the Jew here, I am the boss."

The humanity in that one statement! Someone has to make a film of this. If only Walter Matthau were still alive.
posted by biffa at 4:51 AM on January 26, 2005


Although the question begs, how does one have a "functioning synogogue" with one Jew? You need 10 to pray communally.

I imagine that he has a bunch of stuffed squirrels, like The Janitor from "Scrubs."
posted by Mayor Curley at 5:09 AM on January 26, 2005


Poor guy. Guess he didn't get the memo about the afghan Jews all leaving for Israel or India (many of them were in the cotton trades) in the 1930s and 1940s.

Also, there goes the old chestnut about there being "Jews in every country of the world," which I learned in Sunday school, and at Jewish camps... When Mr. Seimentov dies or moves, there will be a country with no permanent Jewish population (there are lots of travelling business men around the world who are Jewish, but the story was that there was a functioning Jewish population in every country).
posted by zpousman at 5:44 AM on January 26, 2005


I've seen them on tv in the past--a couple of cranky old men. Sad. They hadn't been observant or really using the synagogue at all--they were more caretakers.

and zpous: you're right...but what about Iraq, Iran, Saudi, Kuwait, etc? Are we there still?
posted by amberglow at 5:52 AM on January 26, 2005


this (2001, from Fox, sorry) says it all.
posted by amberglow at 5:55 AM on January 26, 2005


...but what about Iraq, Iran, Saudi, Kuwait, etc? Are we there still?

Stop being so literal-minded, amberglow.
As long there's life, and the Leviathian hasn't consumed the world (yet),
the people of the one who cannot be named are quite well, and in sustained abundance.
posted by Smart Dalek at 6:08 AM on January 26, 2005


To borrow a line from Dr Sacks, if there's one Jew in Afghanistan, I knows me two things. First, there are at least two synagogues. And second, there are at least three people saying that the Jews run everything.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 6:13 AM on January 26, 2005


the people of the one who cannot be named are quite well, and in sustained abundance.

So you folks worship Cthulhu? No wonder I'm in fear of my accountant.
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:16 AM on January 26, 2005


Levin: "Listen to me. We're always sitting here. I'm always helping you with your girl problems, you're always helping me with my girl problems. We're always fighting. Where do we end up?"

Simentov: "Here. The last two Jews in Afghanistan."

Levin: "Exactly. Because neither one of us can handle a woman all by ourselves."

Simentov: "I'm trying."

Levin: "I've tried. We don't have it. But maybe the two of us, working together, at full capacity, could do the job of one normal man."

Simentov: "Then each of us would only have to be like a half-man. That sounds about right."
posted by three blind mice at 6:37 AM on January 26, 2005


If you're ever in South India, I highly reccomend making a detour to this particular synagogue. My impression is that there's only a few families left in Kochi, but there used to be many more, and furthermore, many families living around Bombay and in Maharashtra...
posted by goodglovin77 at 6:45 AM on January 26, 2005


Along a similar Borsht-belt vein, there's one the about a Jew stranded alone on an island. When he's rescued a year later, his rescuers are shocked by how he has managed his life. The tour he gives takes them past a house with running water, a workshop, a granary and a small Synagogue. Some asks about a building the man has been actively ignoring. "That? Oh, that's the *other* shul--I wouldn't be caught dead in there."

Short form: Two Jews, three opinions.

But seriously folks... to echo Biffa, this really does capture both the indredible tenacity & courage and the mind-boggling pettiness of the human condition.
posted by allan at 7:31 AM on January 26, 2005


Yes, this is sad, and I also immediately thought that this would make a good film. Maybe Werner Herzog as director. Nice story/links!
posted by carter at 8:30 AM on January 26, 2005


Interestingly, there seems to be a historical connection between the Pashtun tribe and the Jews (they believe that they are descended literaly from the ten lost tribes). The Pashtun have a similar wedding ceremony, circumsize their sons on the eighth day, and have Jewish-sounding names and customs.

Anyhow, good links - this really sounds like a Woody Allen piece (old Woody, when he was funny)
posted by blahblahblah at 8:41 AM on January 26, 2005


...but what about Iraq, Iran, Saudi, Kuwait, etc? Are we there still?
Iran still has Jews, actually.
posted by kickingtheground at 9:06 AM on January 26, 2005


It should perhaps also be noted that the many many thousands of Jews who fled Iraq and relocated in Israel are NOT allowed to vote in the upcoming election, though expatriats world-wide are for the simple reason (?) that Iraq does not recognize Israel...It is good to bring democracy to Iraq.
posted by Postroad at 9:35 AM on January 26, 2005


Iraq does not recognize Israel... It is good to bring democracy to Iraq.

the diplomatic recognition of israel will no doubt be the first issue of business that a democratically elected iraqi government will want sort out.
posted by three blind mice at 9:50 AM on January 26, 2005


three blind mice: freedom is on the march. Haven't you heard. All democracies are good, and only make good choices.
posted by zpousman at 9:59 AM on January 26, 2005


Can't we all just get aloonggg?
In all seriousness, it is a very tragic story. I agree it could be an incredibly interesting film if done well.

Off topic: I noticed that between three links in this thread, Levin was quoted as giving his age "as 60," was listed as being "in his 70s" and finally it was reported he died "at about 80." He sure aged a lot in the last few years.
posted by miss lynnster at 10:22 AM on January 26, 2005


there seems to be a historical connection between the Pashtun tribe and the Jews

Not a historical connection, a mythical one -- the Pashtun at some point decided being "lost tribes of Israel" would be useful and started putting the story around, but it's silly: they're as Iranian as can be. From an article on a specialist on Afghan Jews:
But despite this amalgamation of Jewish tradition, Blady says the claim of some Muslim Afghan tribes that they are descended from the Ten Lost Tribes is a false one.

The Pashtun people, of which the Taliban are a part, for instance, claim they were Jews who converted to Islam under the advice of another Jewish convert to Islam, a disciple of Muhammad, during the eighth century, he says. They claim that the city of Kabul "stands for Cain and Abel" and that the name Afghanistan is derived from the grandson of King Saul of the tribe of Benjamin, Afghana.

Blady calls this mythology. "They are Aryan, Kurdish, Iranian people, not Semitic at all," he says. They created this mythology about themselves in order to lord it over people -- to say, when all else was primitive and barbaric, they were already monotheistic."

Blady says this Aryan descent is partly why the Nazis tried to establish solidarity with the Afghans during World War II.

"They began dropping leaflets from the skies to establish hatred and tension towards the Jews." Many were killed in massacres. Others fled to Bombay, pre-state Israel, Italy, England and America with the help of various Jewish organizations.
posted by languagehat at 11:57 AM on January 26, 2005


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