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

Israel Has Survived Eight Years of Barack Obama’s False Friendship

Jan. 20 2017

In his speech justifying America’s decision to allow passage of the UN Security Council resolution declaring it a violation of international law for Jews to live in east Jerusalem, the West Bank, or the Golan Heights, Secretary of State John Kerry declared that “friends need to tell each other the hard truths.” John Podhoretz comments:

The decision in December by President Obama to abstain on the UN Security Council vote . . . marked the moment he crossed the finish line in the course he had charted from 2008 onward. The turn against Israel was complete. And, as he had when he began it, in farewell interview after farewell interview he characterized his assault on the legitimacy of the Jewish presence in the Holy Land as an act of tough love. . . .

Which raises the key question: why [only] abstain [from the resolution]? If “hard truths” define friendship, then by all means they should have made the truths as hard as possible. If Barack Obama and John Kerry truly believe the Jewish presence in east Jerusalem is illicit, then they should have voted for the resolution. Instead, they took the coward’s way out. They opened the vault to the criminals and placed the jewels in their hands while wearing white gloves so there would be no residual trace of their fingerprints. The abstention was in some weird sense the mark of their bad conscience. They wanted something to happen while maintaining some historical deniability about their involvement in it.

In the eight years of the Obama presidency, war broke out twice between the Palestinians and the Israelis and nearly broke out a third time. In each case, the issue was not the West Bank, or east Jerusalem, or anything near. . . . The idea that the settlements and the Jewish presence in East Jerusalem are the main barrier to peace between Israel and the Palestinians was proved to be a lie right before Obama’s eyes in 2009, and 2012, and 2014. And he didn’t care to see it, because he is blinded by an antipathy he wishes to ascribe to Israeli action when honesty would compel him to find it in his own misguided leftist ideology—or within his own soul.

Israel has survived the horrendous blessing of Barack Obama’s false friendship.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Barack Obama, Israel & Zionism, John Kerry, U.S. Foreign policy, US-Israel relations