Saturday, September 22, 2007

Noted, with Sadness


The last Afghan Jew marks Yom Kippur alone:

Zebulon Simentov, the last Jew in Afghanistan, is once again marking the Jewish holy day of fasting in solitude, in a deserted synagogue in the capital of a devoutly Islamic nation.

"I have everything I need for the 24 hours of praying and fasting," Simentov tells AFP before the start of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, at sunset on Friday.

Around two decades ago, there were still about 20 Afghan Jewish families living in Kabul, although all were from Herat -- the largest city in northwestern Afghanistan near the border with Iran.

Through the Soviet occupation of the 1980s, the subsequent civil war and the Taliban's 1996-2001 regime, all went to Israel or moved to neighbouring former Soviet republics -- undoing a Jewish presence built up from the seventh century.

Only Simentov has been left behind, becoming by default the guardian of Kabul's empty synagogue.;_ylt=Aisob7OzBSzCq_lFaR9ssQHuOrgF

I found this to be a sad note. As someone who isn't religious, it's easy for me to scoff at the various forms of religious intolerance. But there is a real, human price that some are forced to pay for their religious beliefs.

Simentov is alone. His wife and two children are in Israel, which he says he has not visited since 1998.

"I have been the only Jew in Afghanistan for two years," he says. Ishaq Levin, the synagogue's former guardian, died from illness two years ago aged around 80.

Simentov says it is not easy to practise his religion alone.

One thing that all major religions agree on is human fallibility. That is to say that a mere human cannot fully understand the "will of god". I wish that the "true believers" of every religion could grasp that insight, that other beliefs deserve equal respect. But the "believers", secure in the knowledge that they possess the "truth", proceed to either impose their beliefs on others or eliminate those who disagree. Humans (who are fallible) proceed to kill other humans (who are fallible) in the name of a god (who they cannot fully understand, according to their own scriptures), and they consider themselves "righteous". It boggles my mind.

Added: Am I the only one who finds it ironic that there are more Jews in the Iranian parliament than there are in Afghanistan?


Fran said...

Py- thanks for posting this. I heard an NPR piece on this guy in the not too distant past.

It is really sad. Intolerance is the key word.

You know how I feel- I do my thing and you do yours. Peace unto all.

One of myths of Iran- woven into some of the truths, as all good myths are, is the intolerance. For good or ill, the Jews there enjoy more freedom than in other places.

And yet there are many Jews who deny the same tolerance; the ultra orthodox who think of anyone else as nothing more than treyf- or that which should not be seen, touched or consumed.

The same intolerance Islamic extremists show.

Which is not unlike the Zionist Over the Top Fundamentalist Christians.

Wait... do I see a theme?

It is so sad. As one who does believe in God (and God's gift of free will) I am wondering if he is not scratching his/her head and thinking "WTF people?!"

(my verification word ends with the letters WMD....Strange coincidence or disturbing parallel? You decide!)

Anonymous said...

I'm late here.

I heard the story on NPR, too, and it made me sad and angry.

Were religion to do what I would want it to do, it would bring people together, not tear them apart.

Which is why I sit on the sidelines and refuse to participate in the whole religion thing.