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One of Afghanistan´s Last Two Jews Buried (AP) By STEVEN GUTKIN JERUSALEM, ISRAEL 02/03/05 3:32 AM)Source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A59565-2005Feb3.html AP} ASSOCIATED PRESS AP} ASSOCIATED PRESS Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
JERUSALEM - Ishaq Levin, one of Afghanistan´s last two Jews, had said he feared dying alone in Kabul without a Jewish funeral.

On Wednesday, surrounded by his wife, children, grandchildren and siblings, he was interred in the most revered Jewish burial site on Jerusalem´s Mt. of Olives.

"He was buried with honor in the land of the Jewish people. I´m glad he ended up here," his 74-year-old brother Avraham said moments after Ishaq was lowered into the grave.

Four years ago when the Taliban ruled the country, two Jews were found living at opposite ends of the same synagogue, refusing to speak to each other.

The bitter feud between Levin and Zebulon Simentov - the sole remaining members of Afghanistan´s once thriving Jewish community - made news headlines and ended with Levin´s death two weeks ago, apparently of natural causes, at around age 80.

Levin´s family learned of his death through Simentov´s relatives in Israel, and contacted the Red Cross to have his body flown to Israel. The process took two weeks and involved handing Levin´s remains to Israeli Embassy officials in the Uzbek capital of Tashkent.

The last time any family member had seen Levin was 26 years ago when he made a monthlong visit to Israel, and some were eager to know what his final years had been like in Kabul. An Associated Press reporter who´d met him told family members on Wednesday that Levin had been well liked by his neighbors but lived with few comforts.

Levin lit Sabbath candles one evening a few months before the United States invaded Afghanistan and worried aloud about his fight with Simentov and what that would mean in death.

"I begged him not to be my enemy," Levin said of Simentov. "If I die tomorrow, who will bury me in the traditions of my religion?"

Israel´s chief Sephardic rabbi attended his funeral Wednesday and recited the proper blessings. Levin´s wife sobbed as he was lowered into the grave amid a cold wind sweeping off the hills of Jerusalem. She ripped a piece of her clothing along with Levin´s children and siblings in a traditional Jewish mourning ritual.

Israel arranged for him to be buried on the Mt. of Olives - a great honor in Judaism and an expensive option that few Israelis can afford.

In Kabul, Levin had no phone, only sporadic electricity and rude sticks for furniture.

"He was a very happy person. He loved to laugh," said his niece, Rivka Hakmon.

Levin´s death halved Kabul´s tiny Jewish community, leaving just 45- year-old Simentov. The two would glare at each other when they passed in the synagogue´s courtyard. It wasn´t entirely clear why they disliked each other, but they blamed one another other for the loss of the synagogue´s sole remaining Torah, apparently confiscated by the Taliban.

Afghanistan´s Jewish community numbered as many as 40,000 in the late 19th century, after Persian Jews fled forced conversion in neighboring Iran. But by the mid-20th century, only about 5,000 remained, and most emigrated after Israel´s creation in 1948.

According to Simentov, the last eight or nine families left after the 1979 Soviet invasion. But Levin - the synagogue´s shamash, or caretaker - stayed on, even through the repressive rule of the Taliban.

Simentov and Levin had feuded for years, blaming each other for arrests and beatings at the hands of the Taliban. (Copyright 2005 Associated Press. 02/03/05)


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