Two Jews Said to Remain in Kabul

Yair Sheleg
Yair Sheleg
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Yair Sheleg
Yair Sheleg

Two Jews remain in Kabul, the Afghan capital, according to an Israeli businessman whose family immigrated from Afghanistan and has business links with one of the Jews.

David Ghol's comments contradict remarks made to the Knesset Immigration and Absorption Committee last week that one of the Jews, Zevulun Simantov (with whom Ghol is in contact), recently left Afghanistan, leaving Yitzhak Levy, the second Jew, as the only Jew in Afghanistan. A number of sources have refuted the latest rumors which claim that Simantov immigrated to Israel.

Ghol says that he received a fax from Simantov two weeks ago and that since the September 11 attacks on the U.S., he has spoken by telephone with his Afghan contact twice. He says that contact with Simantov is one-way; Simantov can contact him, either by phone or fax, but a direct call cannot been made from Israel to Afghanistan.

Ghol also says that Simantov could come and go freely from Afghanistan up until September 11. It is not clear how his freedom of movement has been affected since, but Ghol believes that "if he wanted to leave Afghanistan, he could. He just doesn't see a reason to leave; his business is there and he is not persecuted for his religion, and is not afraid."

The other remaining Jew, Yitzhak Levy, is older than Simantov, around 70 years old, and is not as free to move around as Simantov. His entire family lives in Israel. His son Yaakov says that the family left 17 years ago, when the mother of the family was pregnant and used it as an excuse to escape Afghanistan, telling the authorities that she wanted to give birth in India.

Yitzhak and the eldest son Aharon were kept behind in Afghanistan as a "deposit" to ensure that the rest of the family would come back. The family came to Israel and Aharon also managed to escape at a later date.

Yaakov Levy says that "Father did want to immigrate, but could not manage the escape route through the mountains at his age, and so he stayed behind." He says that in the years since, his father has repeated his desire to come to Israel but, "the Jewish Agency said that he can only come by himself, without his property and the Torah scrolls he is protecting in Afghanistan, and so he wouldn't agree."

Though he does not say it explicitly, it seems that the family itself does not want Yitzhak Levy to come without his property. "He has a lot of property," says the son, "and we have financial problems. Our hope was that father would cope and could give us some money. If he comes, and becomes a burden for us, our situation will be even worse."

But the director-general of the Jewish Agency's Department of Immigration and Absorption, Mike Rosenberg, denies the son's claims, saying that the Agency had agreed to bring over the Torah scrolls at its expense, as well as carpets. "In the end," says Rosenberg, "it turned out that he simply didn't want to immigrate. It seems that he is too connected to the synagogue there which he guards."

The family used to send letters via the Red Cross and Yaakov Levy says that the family has not heard anything from their father since the Red Cross left Afghanistan.

An Associated Press reporter met both men in Kabul a few days after the terror attacks in the U.S., and says that they are fighting for control of the synagogue. Yaakov Levy, however, explains that the synagogue is located in one of the rooms of a huge mansion and that "Simantov keeps bugging father to leave the mansion, but father doesn't want to."

Comments