The Last Jew of Afghanistan and His Almost-Vanished Community

Since the death of his coreligionist (and rival) Isaak Levi, Zebulon Simentov has been the last Jew in Afghanistan. He still makes a living as a kosher butcher (local Muslims consider his meat halal) and as the proprietor of a kebab restaurant. He also gives interviews for a fee. In telling his story, Emran Feroz also offers highlights from the history of a once-sizable community:

On Flower Sellers’ Street, in the Kabul district of Shar-e Nao, everyone knows Zebulon Simentov—Zebulon the Jew, as most people here call him. . . . It is thought that 40,000 Jews were still living in Afghanistan in the 1930s. In the majority-Muslim nation, the minority was not only tolerated, but also enjoyed a special status. To this day, people retell legends claiming that the Pashtun, [the country’s dominant ethnic group], were originally descended from one of the lost tribes of Israel.

Ethnically speaking, however, the Afghan Jews were not Pashtun, but Persian speakers. More specifically the people in question are Bukharan [i.e., Central Asian] Jews who settled in Afghanistan centuries ago, primarily in the western part of the country, in the region around Herat. . . .

A large number of Afghan Jews emigrated upon the foundation of Israel, but many also remained. . . . It wasn’t until the start of the Soviet invasion of 1979 and the ensuing years of devastation that the Jewish population shrank rapidly. Most of them emigrated to Israel and the United States.

Read more at Qantara

More about: Afghanistan, Bukharan Jews, Jewish World, Mizrahi Jewry

Hamas Won’t Compromise with the Palestinian Authority, and Gazans Won’t Overthrow Hamas

July 24 2017

Since the terrorist organization Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007, much of Israeli strategy toward it has stemmed from the belief that, if sufficient pressure is applied, the territory’s residents will rise up against it. Yaakov Amidror argues this is unlikely to happen, and he also doubts that improved living conditions for ordinary Gazans would deter Hamas from terrorism or war:

The hardships experienced by the Strip’s residents, no matter how terrible, will not drive them to stage a coup to topple Hamas. The organization is entrenched in Gaza and is notorious for its brutality toward any sign of dissidence, and the Palestinians know there is no viable alternative waiting for an opportunity to [take over].

[Therefore], it is time everyone got used to the idea that Hamas is not about to relinquish its dominant position in the Gaza Strip, let alone concede to the Palestinian Authority’s President Mahmoud Abbas. . . . [Yet the] assumption is also baseless that if Gaza experiences economic stability and prosperity, Hamas would refrain from provoking hostilities. This misconception is based on the theory that Hamas operates by governmental norms and prioritizes the needs and welfare of its citizens. This logic does not apply to Hamas. . . .

[Hamas’s] priorities are to bolster its military power and cement its iron grip. This is why all the supplies Israel allows into Gaza on a daily basis to facilitate normal life have little chance of reaching the people. Hamas first and foremost takes care of its leaders and makes sure it has what it needs to sustain its terror-tunnel-digging enterprise and its weapon-production efforts. It then sees to the needs of its members, and then—and only then—what little is left is diverted to rehabilitation efforts that benefit the population.

This is why the argument that Israel is responsible for Gaza’s inability to recover from its plight is baseless. Hamas is the one that determines the priorities by which to allocate resources in the enclave, and the more construction materials that enter Gaza, the easier and faster it is for Hamas to restore its military capabilities. Should Israel sacrifice its own security on the altar of Gazans’ living conditions? I don’t think so.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security