Afghanistan´s last Jew has the final word (REUTERS) By Jon Hemming 01/26/05 12:04 PM ET)
Reuters News Service
Reuters News Service Articles-Index-Top
KABUL (Reuters) - The last two Jews in Afghanistan hated each other,
berated each other and carried on a bitter feud. Now one has the
final word -- the other one died.
"He was mad," Zebolan Simanto said on Wednesday in a cold upstairs
room in a building housing two synagogues on a Kabul side street that
was once home to some 30 Jewish families.
"He was a magician and I am a businessman," Simanto, a carpet dealer,
said of his erstwhile foe Yitzhak Levy, a traditional healer, who
occupied another room across the courtyard until he died last week,
apparently of old age.
The pair were all that were left of a Jewish community that had been
in Afghanistan for 800 years.
About 40,000 Jews lived in Afghanistan at the end of the 19th
century, their numbers boosted by thousands of others from
neighbouring Iran who fled forced conversion to Islam.
Many left after the creation of Israel in 1948. All the rest fled
when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979, leaving only
the "odd couple" to blame each other for their woes.
Levy used to accuse Simanto of denouncing him to Afghanistan´s
hardline Islamist Taliban government as an Israeli spy which he said
had landed him in jail five times.
"They threw me on the floor and one sat on my neck and two on my
feet. The other two beat me with electrical cables. Now I can´t walk
properly," he said in 2001 after U.S.-led forces toppled the Taliban
for harbouring al Qaeda.
Simanto, in his forties, a black skull-cap partly covering a bald
head with fair hair protruding below, levelled the same charge at
Levy. He said the Taliban had jailed him four times.
But the root of their mutual hatred lay in the seizure of the
synagogue´s Torah scrolls by the Taliban.
"It was all his fault that they took the Torah," said Simanto. Levy,
when he was alive, blamed Simanto.
Described by the pair as being hand-written on deer-skin and wrapped
in silk, 500 years old and worth $2 million, the scrolls were taken
to the Interior Ministry by the Taliban. Simanto said he had asked
the U.S. embassy in Kabul to help get them back.
No one is saying where the scrolls are now.
The International Committee of the Red Cross in Kabul said it had
been approached by Levy´s relatives in Israel to bring his body there
for burial. (© Reuters 2005 01/26/05)
Return to Top
MATERIAL REPRODUCED FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY