The Story of the Last Jew of Afghanistan

While doing some research for one of my upcoming projects I came across an article written about the last documented Jew in Afghanistan. My curiosity kicked in and I ended up reading a string of articles about him and about the Jewish history of Afghanistan. So here is a little summery of what I found and if you are interested in reading deeply into this topic, the links to the articles I read can be found below.

Afghanistan was once home to a large community of Jews with a rich history going back even further than the 7th century. But due to the civil war that was raging in the country for more than 30 years and related migrations the number has come down gradually to a single digit number. Most of the Jews originally from Afghanistan migrated to outside countries such as Israel, USA and Europe and even today proudly presents themselves as Afghan Jews.

Today the only remaining Jew living in Afghanistan is Zablon Simintov who was born in Herat in 1959.  He is a carpet trader, a restaurant owner and also the caretaker of the only functioning synagogue in Afghanistan located on Flower Street in Kabul.

When Zablon first came to Kabul he was welcomed by one other Jew named Isaak Levi and they both lived at the site of the synagogue in harmony. But as time passed by the air between the two got bitter and long story short (I’ll spare you the gruesome details) the two did not reconcile even until the death of Isaak in 2005. The spat between the two got so much attention that even a British play by the name of “The last two Jews of Kabul” was produced based on it.

Today Zablon solely keeps alive the traditions of the Jewish way of life in Afghanistan. He lives alone, prays alone and even has obtained permission and training to slaughter his own meat in line to kosher dietary laws. Zablon’s wife and two daughters currently lives in Israel and when asked why he does not move, he answers simply “What business do I have there?”. His answer shows the deep love he has for this country which he calls home and his undying ambition to keep the Jewish history alive in Afghanistan along with his passion to preserve his heritage for generation to come.

(Source- https://en.qantara.de/content/judaism-in-afghanistan-kabuls-one-remaining-jew, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zablon_Simintov, http://www.aish.com/jw/s/The-Jewish-History-of-Afghanistan.html, http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-life-and-religion/132099/a-congregation-of-one )

 

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Delhi Diaries

We arrived in Delhi on a hot summer afternoon after an exciting 20 days of exploring the states of Bihar and West Bengal. With only two days left to explore Delhi before we start the next leg of our journey- Himachal Pradesh, we settled in to our accommodation for the next two days, the Delhi Mabodhi Society Hostel and got some much needed rest.

During the late evening made our way in to the city and our first stop was the Red Fort at the heart of Delhi. A historical fort, this magnificent structure once was the residence of the royals of the Mughal dynasty of India. A masterpiece of architecture, this fort gives us a glimpse of what life back then must have been. Red sand stone walls, Marble structures and intricate carvings stand as proof to the craftsmanship of  a bygone generation.

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Once we were done exploring the Red Fort we made our way in to Chandani chowk, one of the oldest market places in Old Delhi. It is one of the busiest markets in India till date and a stroll along Chandani Chowk is one thing you shouldn’t forget to do if in Delhi. Even if you don’t want to shop,  these narrow and crowded ghalees are full of new experiences waiting to be explored

At night Delhi is a vibrant, busy hub filled with both travelers and locals alike. Night food stalls come out and fill the air with mouth watering fragrances that are bound to make you hungry. Locals rushing back home on these crowded streets resemble an ant nest gone haywire.

New Delhi station is for sure one of the busiest train stations in the world and it is even more active during the night. The atmosphere around the station is a culture of its own with porters and rikshaw walas trying to find their last earning for the day, commuters rushing in and out and amidst all this chaos there is a beauty you can only see if you pause and take in the surroundings.  The small food stalls located on the Ghalees around the station is a great way to get in touch with the local culture and taste- pretty great food for cheap prices.

Next morning we arranged a taxi to take us to the other important sites scattered around Delhi. Our first stop was the Laxminarayan temple. Spread across nearly 7.5 aches the Laxminarayan Hindu temple is one of the largest temples in Delhi. A major attraction of Delhi, this temple is constantly visited by both devotees and tourists alike.

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Laxminarayan temple

Our next stop was the world famous India Gate, a monument dedicated to the brave soldiers of the India army who gave their lives during the period of 1914-21. The gate is carved with the names of more than 13,300 of these brave men and the small structure called “Amar Jawan Jyoti” was installed to commemorate the fallen unknown soldiers.

A ride along the world renowned Rajpath way (Kings way) will give you the chance to see the Rashtrapathi bawan, The secretariat building and many more important government buildings which have a high architectural value.

The National Museum of New Delhi is home to a large collection of artifacts and exhibits belonging to many eras of Indian  history and is a great way to learn about this interesting country. From paintings, stone carvings to jewelry these exhibits boasts about the rich history, multiculturalism and the craftsmanship that belong to India.

Indira Gandhi Memorial is a museum dedicated to the life of former prime minister Indira Gandhi and is located at her residence. You will get to peep in to her life through the exhibits displayed and you will also get to see the location where she was assassinated. Most of the families personal effects are displayed in this museum including the blood stained saree she was wearing on the day of her assassination.

A Bahai house of worship, the Lotus temple is one of the most famous tourist attractions of Delhi. This temple is open to all, regardless of their faith, gender or social status and is considered as the most visited building in the world. This magnificent structure that resembles a lotus flower is made up of 27 petal like structures and a breathtaking interior hall.

 

A trip to Delhi will not be complete without shopping and we did most of our trinket shopping from roadside stalls along the way.

During the evening we went to the famous underground shopping center Palika Bazar in the hopes of doing a little bit of extra shopping. If you do plan to visit this place just know some of the things sold here are Fake.. be a little cautious !! Branded spray deodorant bottles filled with water, “leather belts” which were actually made of paper, 16 GB pen drives that were really only pieces of plastic were just a few of the “Quality” products we came across 😛  But the experience of walking amidst the small shops, listening to the sales pitch for each product is always entertaining. I’m sure among the fake stuff there might be genuine stuff too but I for one was not lucky !! First time I failed in shopping in India!! I was pretty disappointed in myself because hey it was not my first rodeo!!  Despite the fail in my “Indian shopping instincts” I definitely don’t regret the experience  because I got a good story out of it  😛

There is so much more to see in Delhi and I have visited some of the other attractions in my previous visits but as we had limited time this was all we could cramp in during this stay. I wish I had more time to see more but, when it comes to India there is always a next time  🙂

The perfect harmony seen between history and present in this confined space is the main reason why Delhi is so charming and appealing to me. Do visit Delhi if you are heading to India and make sure you plan better to make the most of your time there!

Until next time,

Happy travels