The Full Wiki

History of the Jews in Afghanistan: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Jews have lived in Afghanistan for at least 2,000 years, but the community has been reduced greatly because of emigration. Afghan Jewish communities now exist mostly in Israel and the United States.[1] Today, it is believed that there is only one Jew, Zablon Simintov, who resides in Afghanistan. He cares for a dilapidated synagogue in Afghanistan's capital, Kabul, and receives aid from sympathetic Muslims and Jews around the world. He also Loves Pizza :)[2]



It may be possible that Jews have a history of 2,500 years in Afghanistan, tracing back to the Babylonian Exile and Persian conquest. Records of a Jewish population in Afghanistan go back to the 7th century, with the Tabqat-i-Nasiri[citation needed] mentioning a people called Bani Israel settling in Ghor[citation needed]. Among the Pashtun people some believe in a legend that they descended from one of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel. It is claimed that the name Kabul is derived from Cain and Abel[3], and the name Afghanistan from Afghana, a grandson of King Saul. According to historians V. Minorsky, W.K. Frazier Tyler and M.C. Gillet, the name "Afghan" appears in a 982 CE book called Hudud-al-Alam, where a reference is made to:[4]

Saul, a pleasant village on a mountain. In it lives Afghans.

The village of Saul probably was located some where near Gardez, which is just east of Ghazni in Afghanistan. The book also tells about a village near modern Jalalabad where the local king used to have many Hindu, Muslim and Afghan wives.[4]

In 1080, Moses ibn Ezra mentions 40,000 Jews paying tribute to Ghazni[citation needed], and Benjamin of Tudela in the 12th century counts 80,000 Jews[citation needed].

In the course of Genghis Khan's 1222 invasion, the Jewish communities were reduced to isolated pockets. Only in 1839, the population increased again, swelled by refugees from Persia, reaching some 40,000[citation needed].

By 1948, about 5,000 Jews existed in Afghanistan, and after they were allowed to emigrate in 1951, most of them moved to Israel and the United States.[1] By 1969, some 300 remained, and most of these left after the Soviet invasion of 1979, leaving 10 Afghan Jews in 1996, most of them in Kabul. More than 10,000 Jews of Afghan descent presently live in Israel. Over 200 families of Afghan Jews live in New York City in USA.[1]


By the end of 2004, only two Jews were left in Afghanistan, Zablon Simintov and Isaac Levy (born ca. 1920). Levy relied on charity, while Simentov ran a store selling carpets and jewelry until 2001. They lived at separate ends of the dilapidated Kabul synagogue. Both claimed to be in charge of the synagogue, and the rightful owner of its Torah, accusing the other of theft and imposture. They kept denouncing each other to the authorities, and both spent time in Taliban jails, and the Taliban also confiscated the Torah. Recently, one of Simentov's acquaintances stated that if you had brought (him) a bottle of whiskey, he (Simentov) would be in "heaven."[5]

The contentious relationship between Simentov and Levy was dramatized in a play inspired by news reports of the two that appeared in international news media following the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan overthrowing the Taliban regime. The play, entitled "The Last Two Jews of Kabul," was written by playwright Josh Greenfeld and was staged in New York City in 2002.

In January 2005, Levy died of natural cause. Simentov is now the last remaining Jew in Afghanistan, and with a total Afghan population of 30 million, this amounts to a fraction of 33 ppb, the lowest worldwide. Simentov is trying to recover the confiscated Torah. Simentov, who does not speak Hebrew[5] claims that the man who stole his Torah is now in U.S. custody in Guantanamo Bay. Simentov has a wife and two daughters who live in Israel, and he said he was considering joining them. However, when asked during a recent interview whether he would go to Israel, Simentov retorted, "Go to Israel? What business do I have there? Why should I leave?" [5]

Ten Lost Tribes of Israel

It is widely believed by many Muslim scholars and some Jewish scholars that the largest ethnic group of Afghanistan, the Pashtuns, are descended from the exiled Lost Tribes of Israel. The theory is mentioned in Nimat Allah al-Harawi's The History of the Afghans written in 1612[6]. They cite oral history and the names of various clans, which resemble the names of the tribes that were exiled by the Assyrian Empire 2,700 years ago, as evidence for this claim. This evidence, however, was not substantiated by a recent genetic test that was focused on a small non-descript group of Pashtuns which found no substantial connection between Jewish populations and the Pashtuns. Nor is the Eastern Iranian language of the Pashtuns taken into account when examining the claims of Hebrew ancestry. It could be concluded that these claims appear to have emerged amongst the Pashtuns following the Islamic conquest of Afghanistan, it is conceivable that many tribes have created elaborate ancestral lineages to link themselves to prominent peoples mentioned in the Qur'an such as Jews, Greeks (see Alexander in the Qur'an), and Arabs all of whom have come to the region, but appear to have contributed to various minority genetic strains in the population rather than drastically altering the demographics of Afghanistan. Medieval accounts of the Israelite origin of the Pashtuns are contradicted by ancient sources, which from the Vedas[7] and Herodotus[8] (c. 450 BCE) onward refer to Paktia (the Pashtun), the "Aparitai" (Afridis) as well as other Pashtun sub-tribes and also by the Iranian language linguistic affiliations of the Pashto language.

Contemporary Afghan Jews

More than 10,000 Jews of Afghan descent now live in Israel. The second largest population of Afghan Jews is in New York City, with 200 families living mostly in the neighborhoods of Flushing, Forest Hills and Jamaica, in the borough of Queens.[1] Many speak neither Pashto nor Dari Persian while some even emphasize that they "weren't really Afghans by definition" but that they "just lived over there." [9] Rabbi Jacob Nasirov leads the Orthodox congregation of Anshei Shalom, the only Afghan synagogue in the United States. Members have roots not only from Afghanistan, but also Yemen, Syria, Russia, Iraq, Morocco and Lebanon.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d NEW YORK, June 19, 2007 (RFE/RL), U.S.: Afghan Jews Keep Traditions Alive Far From Home
  2. ^
  3. ^ Nancy Hatch Dupree - An Historical Guide to Kabul. The Name "Sir Alexander Burnes tells us, for instance, that when he was in Kabul in 1834, it was popularly believed that two sons of Noah, Cakool and Habool, were the founders of the Afghan race. When it came to naming their greatest city, the two brothers quarreled bitterly until at last a compromise was reached: each would give to the city one syllable of his name. Thus it was that the city came to be called Ca-bool. Legend has taken considerable license here. In Persian, Adam's two sons, Cain and Abel, are known as Cabil and Habil. The Moghul Emperor Babur tells us Cain was the founder of Kabul and that he visited his tomb soon after his arrival. It was situated, he said, in the gardens south of Bala Hissar in the area now known as Shohada-i-Salehin."
  4. ^ a b Willem Vogelsang, The Afghans, Edition: illustrated Published by Wiley-Blackwell, 2002, Page 18, ISBN 0631198415, 9780631198413 (LINK)
  5. ^ a b c The last Jew in Afghanistan / ALONE ON FLOWER STREET: He survived Soviets, Taliban - and outlasted even his despised peer
  6. ^ Niamatullah’s History of the Afghans = Makhzan-I Afghāni, by Nirodbhusan Roy, Lahore : Sang-e-meel, 2002
  7. ^ Rig Veda. pp. e.g. in 4.25.7c. 
  8. ^ Herodotus. Histories. Book IV v.44 and Book III v.91. 
  9. ^ U.S.: Afghan Jews Keep Traditions Alive Far From Home

External links



Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address