Once a very successful rug merchant, Zablon Simintov has been imprisoned by the Taliban, had his business and all his possessions destroyed, was abandoned by his own family, yet still practices his faith in the country he calls home.
Back in 2013, when the below video was made, Simintov lived and still had his business in a dilapidated building which also housed the country’s last functioning synagogue in the Afghan capital of Kabul.
The Star For centuries, the country’s Jewish community — estimated to be as large as 40,000 strong at its peak — filled many synagogues every Friday night and Saturday. Over time, however, the community gradually declined to 10,000, to hundreds, to 10, to two — and eventually to one single Jew, Simantov. Simantov says he remains in Afghanistan to save the final house of worship and keep the Jewish community alive.
The community was several thousand strong at the turn of the 20th century, spread across several cities. They later left the country en masse, mostly for the newly created state of Israel. Simintov’s wife and daughters also left for the Jewish state, but he decided to stay behind with his Afghan “brothers.”
Other religions have fared even worse than Judaism. There are no Afghan Christians left, at least none who is open about it, and the only permanent church is inside the Italian diplomatic compound. There is a small Hindu population, but it is shrinking rapidly.