Last Jew of Afghanistan heading to New York City

0
24
Last Jew of Afghanistan heading to New York City

Zebulon Simantov, the famed last Jew of Afghanistan, is getting ready to hit the Big Apple.

“I like everything in New York. Everything is exciting,” Simantov, 62, told The Post in his first interview since fleeing Afghanistan two weeks ago. “I would like to be a US citizen.”

The wily former carpet dealer — and his backers in New York City — are actively trying to secure travel documents for him to come to the US. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has been lobbied intensely over the issue.

Schumer’s office told The Post they were working on the case.

If all goes according to plan, Simantov will stay with relatives in Queens.

“I am a businessman, I’ll do business there,” Simantov said.

Zebulon Simantov sits with rescued Afghan children on Sept. 23, 2021.
Zebulon Simantov sits with rescued Afghan children on Sept. 23, 2021.
Moti Kahana

He added that he’s looking forward to a glass of Johnnie Walker Blue Label scotch ($225-plus per bottle) when he arrives.

The Afghan native stuck it out in the war-torn country through decades of turmoil, including the Soviet invasion, The Taliban, the US-backed government, and the return of the Taliban last month.

“I sensed something terrible was going to happen to Afghanistan,” Simantov said. “The Taliban is much crueler than ever before. They kill people now like killing small animals.”

On Thursday the Taliban announced that executions, hand amputations and other Quran-era punishments would return.

Zebulon Simantov, was the last known Jew living in Afghanistan.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has lobbied intensely to get Zebulon Simantov travel documents.
AP Photo/David Goldman

Simantov blamed both US political parties for the country’s descent into chaos.

“[Biden] left so fast and he left people behind … The terrorist groups were celebrating when the Taliban toppled the Afghan government,” Simantov said, while also calling former President Trump a “madman.”

He added: “I request that American citizens not vote for either Trump or President Biden in the next election in 2024.”

He urged the American people not to forget about the country, and specifically the millions of vulnerable women now at risk under the Taliban.

Afghan Jew Zebulon Simantov looks at the Torah scripture at synagogue, housed in an old building in Kabul.
Simantov plans to stay with relatives in Queens.
AFP via Getty Images

Simantov’s wife and her family left Afghanistan for Uzbekistan — and ultimately Israel — in 1995. Simantov said she had been suffering from seizures.

“It was impossible for me to follow her. She was ill,” he recalled. The two technically remained married under Jewish law and Simantov only signed the papers granting a divorce (known as a get) last week.

He denied reports he had resisted granting his wife the get in the past, saying the complex procedure had been logistically impossible in Afghanistan during his time there.

After initially thinking about trying his luck with the Islamists again, Simantov was persuaded to flee, and set off on a days-long overland journey into a neighboring country.

 Zebulon Simantov, the last known Jew living in Afghanistan, closes the window to the synagogue he cares for in his Kabul home.
Simantov thought about staying in Afghanistan but was convinced to flee the country.
AP Photo/David Goldman

His departure marks the end of the 1,500-year-old Jewish community in Afghanistan. Simantov became the last Jew in the country after the death of Yitzhak Levy in 2005.

The two famously hated each other and would regularly denounce the other to Taliban authorities. Time had not healed the feelings.

“He turned the synagogue of the Jewish community over there to a prostitution house,” Simantov snapped when asked about him.

Simantov’s rescue was arranged by Israeli-American businessman Moti Kahana, who organized the international effort from his cattle farm in Randolph, N.J. Kahana has also played a role in dozens of other rescues of vulnerable Afghans from the country.

Afghan Jew Zebulon Simantov prays after eating lunch in his house in Kabul.
“The Taliban is much crueler than ever before,” Simantov said.
AFP via Getty Images

But Kahana said he had become frustrated with the delays in getting Simantov to America and that the issue was distracting him from being able to focus on other cases.

“I’m not a babysitter,” Kahana said, saying he couldn’t just keep Simantov in a hotel room forever and that finding kosher food for him to eat was impossible.

“He is losing a lot of weight eating vegetables,” Kahana said.

Source link