After Afghanistan’s last Jew refused to leave, his would-be Jewish rescuers helped dozens of other Afghans escape instead

  

Category:  Religion & Ethics

Via:  hallux  •  3 weeks ago  •  24 comments

By:   RON KAMPEAS - Jewish Telegraphic Agency

After Afghanistan’s last Jew refused to leave, his would-be Jewish rescuers helped dozens of other Afghans escape instead
Zebulon Simantov, Afghanistan’s last Jew, has not left Kabul, despite the best efforts of some Jewish figures and organizations.

S E E D E D   C O N T E N T


( JTA ) — Zebulon Simantov, Afghanistan’s last Jew, has not left Kabul,   despite the best efforts of some Jewish figures and organizations .

One of them was Moshe Margaretten, a haredi Orthodox fixer whose passion is bringing Jews out of danger.

Margaretten paid Moti Kahana, an Israeli-American businessman   who helped extract people from war-torn Syria , to be a middleman and get Simantov out — but Kahana told Margaretten what many others had heard: Simantov was not leaving because of his longstanding refusal to grant his Israeli wife a “get,” or decree of divorce. Simantov feared facing Israel’s legal system, which penalizes such a refusal.

But Kahana hatched another idea. The team he sent into Kabul to extract Simantov learned that there were plenty of women in danger of being targeted by the Taliban as they assumed total control of Afghanistan — among them members of the country’s national women’s soccer team, along with judges and prosecutors.

Was Margaretten interested in paying for their extraction?

“Absolutely,” Margaretten said. “Give me 10 hours.”

Within a day, Margaretten, who is based in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, had drummed up $80,000 from his haredi Orthodox community. He wired the funds to Kahana’s consultancy, GDC, and by Wednesday, Kahana was, from his New Jersey farm, coordinating the extraction of at least four soccer players, a judge, a prosecutor and their families, over land and by air. Kahana said they numbered 23 people. Margaretten said the money would also assist the refugees after their departure.

By Friday, Kahana said his team had extracted another 23 people.

Khalida Popal, the former captain of the national women’s soccer team who is now based in Denmark and   is leading efforts to extract the players , thanked Margaretten’s nonprofit, Tzedek Association, on Twitter on Thursday afternoon, as the world was reeling from the news of a massive suicide bomb attack on Kabul’s airport.

“Thank you ⁦ @Tzedek_Assoc for your incredible help w/ this life-saving rescue effort, including coordination to the airport and other routes, and political connections,” she said. “Together we are saving lives!” (Margaretten said that some of the funds are being directed through Tzedek, and some are going directly to the project to assist the refugees.)

Popal did not add details and did not return requests for an interview, but her expression of relief came after days of tweets expressing anxiety and uncertainty.

“This is exactly where our players were last night,” she tweeted 90 minutes earlier, attaching a video of the carnage at Kabul airport. “I am worried and nervous and feel bad in my stomach. I don’t know if some of our players are here. I am worried.”

Margaretten was bemused by the trajectory of the week: a failed bid to persuade a recalcitrant husband to flee danger resulted in the successful rescue of women from a repressive society.

“He didn’t give a get, a divorce, to his wife; she lives in Israel. And because of that he’s scared to go to Israel,” he said. “That’s a very fun story. And he wants money.” (Simantov has in the past reportedly demanded money to be rescued and to grant interviews.)

“Moti told me, ‘My people there on the ground are telling me there is a group of soccer players, and they are very scared for their lives,'” Margaretten said. “They believe they will be a big target for the Taliban to get killed. Maybe you want to get involved to save their lives.”

Now it’s become a mission. Margaretten and Kahana say they plan on extracting dozens more people by land and by air; Margaretten said that he projects having to raise more than $2 million for the effort.

Margaretten helped lead advocacy for the passage of the First Step Act in 2018, which creates incentives for federal prisoners to reduce their sentences and helps rehabilitate them once they are out. He was seen as critical in   getting congressional Republicans to back the legislation . The act is   viewed as one of the major successes   of the Trump administration, and for Trump’s Jewish son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner. Margaretten lit the candles at the 2019 White House Hanukkah party.

Margaretten was moved to get involved in prison reform advocacy after seeing the havoc that imprisonment wreaked on some people he knew in his community. He told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that like the rescue he is funding in Kabul, his advocacy came from a place of seeking to assist Jews, and ending up helping others as well.

“Ninety-four percent people who benefited from this legislation, the First Step Act, were from minority groups,” Margaretten said.

He’s still looking out for Simantov.

“I told Moti Kahana, please have someone to watch on him. He doesn’t want to leave but we’ll have some people keeping an eye on him that no one shouldn’t harm him,” he said.

Margaretten forwarded a photo via WhatsApp of Simantov on Wednesday, draining the blood of a chicken into a metal container.

“This is Zebulon Simantov making a chicken kosher!” Margaretten said in a voice message.


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Hallux
Freshman Principal
1  seeder  Hallux    3 weeks ago

Calling Glenn Beck ... Hello Glenn ... we found one.

 
 
 
Krishna
Professor Principal
2  Krishna    3 weeks ago

In the past you've mentioned that we weren't allowed to talk about Jews on NT.

Nice to see that "the powers that be" finally relented, and that we are now free to discuss them here jrSmiley_2_smiley_image.png

 
 
 
Buzz of the Orient
Professor Principal
2.1  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  Krishna @2    3 weeks ago

I never heard that we weren't allowed to talk about Jews on NT.  I just posted an article about Leonard Cohen.

 
 
 
Hallux
Freshman Principal
2.2  seeder  Hallux  replied to  Krishna @2    3 weeks ago
In the past you've mentioned that we weren't allowed to talk about Jews on NT.

Not that I know of.

 
 
 
Hallux
Freshman Principal
3  seeder  Hallux    3 weeks ago

More on our friend, The Last.

( JTA ) — As the old saying goes, two Jews, three opinions. Add one headache for the Taliban.

Meet   Zabulon Simentov , 66, who is believed to be the last remaining Jew in Afghanistan. Emran Feroz recently   profiled   Simentov for Foreign Policy and uncovered some incredible stories about the feisty Afghan — including that the Taliban once imprisoned him for arguing with a fellow Jew, then kicked him out because the constant bickering became too annoying.

There is a good amount of information available already on Simentov, given his newsworthy title as Afghanistan’s last remaining Jew. He always wears a   kippah   and observes the Jewish Sabbath, though he will watch television if a non-Jew has turned it on for him. He lives in Afghanistan’s last standing synagogue — which he renovated himself — in the heart of Kabul’s flower district. Every Shabbat, he reads Torah from the bimah of the old sanctuary. He hates the Taliban, and is on a quest to reclaim a Torah stolen by its interior ministry. He allegedly   charges a pretty penny   (or euro) for interviews.

But Feroz’s article, framed around the imminent   return of the Taliban to Afghanistan , adds much to the story.

“Everyone in these streets knows [him],” one neighbor told Feroz. “He is very salient and, sometimes, he is very choleric. But we have fun with him.”

Jews have more than a   thousand-year history   in Afghanistan, and only slowly began emigrating after World War II. But the rise of communism, the Red Army’s persecution of religious people across Central Asia and the   Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979  led the Jews of Afghanistan to leave for good to Israel, the United States and elsewhere.

When the Taliban took over Afghanistan in the late 1990s, Simentov went to Israel with his family, where his wife, daughters and sisters now live, but returned to Kabul after just two months.

“I did not want to stay there. Afghanistan is my homeland,” he told Foreign Policy.

When he returned, Simentov encountered Yitzhak Levi, nearly two decades his senior, living at the Kabul synagogue. The two did not hit it off: They “fought viciously about which of them was the rightful owner of the land,” according to a 2017 Jewish Telegraphic Agency   profile of Simentov . They moved into   different wings of the synagogue .

In 1998, Levi wrote to the Taliban interior minister to accuse Simentov of theft of Jewish relics. Simentov retorted by telling the Taliban that Levi ran a secret brothel where he sold alcohol, which Levi denies. Simentov also spread rumors that Levi had converted to Islam, which Levi denied as well.

“I don’t talk to him, he’s the devil,” Simentov   told   The New York Times in 2002. “A dog is better than him … I don’t have many complaints about the Taliban, but I have a lot of complaints about him.” Levi replied that Simentov was “a thief and a liar.'”

The Taliban was so annoyed by their constant fighting that they threw them in jail. But they eventually kicked them out when they continued to fight inside the prison.   Levi died in 2005 .

“[The Taliban] beat me a lot,” Simentov told Foreign Policy. “I was imprisoned several times because of this charlatan Levy [sic]. He wanted to get rid of me to sell the synagogue. But thank God he was not successful.”

Unfortunately, their feuding also allowed the Taliban to run away with the synagogue’s Torah. Scribed in the 15th century, the scroll was allegedly taken by Taliban’s interior minister and sold on the black market.

Simentov vows to find the Torah, and to keep up his search until his dying days. He still believes that the Torah will resurface, but “whether the holy scripture re-emerges or not, there will be at least one Jew waiting for it — and he will continue to stay in Kabul.”

“I’m a man with no fear. I will never leave Afghanistan because of the Taliban or anyone else,” Simentov told Foreign Policy.

When Feroz asked Taliban official Khairullah Khairkhwa about Simentov and Levi, “he could not hide his grin.”

 
 
 
Colour Me Free
Junior Participates
3.1  Colour Me Free  replied to  Hallux @3    3 weeks ago

Thanks .. good read .. as sad as everything is, the story of Simentov has made me smile, even though he was a bit naughty .. there is still good in the world that stand their ground.. :)

 
 
 
Buzz of the Orient
Professor Principal
3.2  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  Hallux @3    3 weeks ago
"The Taliban was so annoyed by their constant fighting that they threw them in jail. But they eventually kicked them out when they continued to fight inside the prison."

In the 1960 movie Exodus, when Ari Ben Canaan (Paul Newman), dressed in British army gear, was discussing Jews with anti-Semite Major Caldwell (Peter Lawford), Ari said something like "Put two Jews together you get an argument, and if three, a revolution."

 
 
 
Krishna
Professor Principal
3.2.1  Krishna  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @3.2    3 weeks ago
"Put two Jews together you get an argument, and if three, a revolution."

I've that before-- or something like it.

One interesting explanation as to why that's so (although I don't know if its accurate)-- is that it comes from the traditions of Talmudic scholars who would constantly challenge spiritual teachings, and also challenge it all the key beliefs...as a (supposed) way to deep understanding.

 
 
 
Krishna
Professor Principal
4  Krishna    3 weeks ago

“Moti told me, ‘My people there on the ground are telling me there is a group of soccer players, and they are very scared for their lives,'” Margaretten said. “They believe they will be a big target for the Taliban to get killed. Maybe you want to get involved to save their lives.”

Now it’s become a mission. Margaretten and Kahana say they plan on extracting dozens more people by land and by air; Margaretten said that he projects having to raise more than $2 million for the effort.

Similar "impossible" evacuations have been performed before-- by other amazing people.

During WWII there were many, many such missions-- information about some of them is almost impossible to find.

Perhaps best known is the Kindertransport .

 
 
 
shona1
Sophomore Participates
4.1  shona1  replied to  Krishna @4    3 weeks ago

Anoon Krishna..if it is the women's soccer team they are already gone.. they are on theIr way to Australia..We have taken them all..

 
 
 
shona1
Sophomore Participates
4.2  shona1  replied to  Krishna @4    3 weeks ago

Evening. Just watching a documentary now on the Jewish exodus from Germany to Shanghai..and how they survived.. Harbour from the Holocaust... excellent documentary.

 
 
 
Buzz of the Orient
Professor Principal
4.2.1  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  shona1 @4.2    3 weeks ago

The Chinese were a lot more welcoming of the Jewish refugees than America or Canada who did not allow the refugees to disembark from the SS St. Louis, and when Canada's Prime Minister, McKenzie King, was asked when the war was over how many Jews he would allow to immigrate to Canada he said the iconic words (that became the title of a book about it) "None is too many."  When the Japanese occupied Shanghai even they, the perpetrators of The Rape of Nanjing, refused to follow Hitler's directive to kill the Jews in Shanghai.

 
 
 
Split Personality
PhD Principal
4.2.2  Split Personality  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @4.2.1    3 weeks ago

Shhhhhhhhhhhh, that sounds like a CRT  subject.

 
 
 
Buzz of the Orient
Professor Principal
4.2.3  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  Split Personality @4.2.2    3 weeks ago

Sorry, SP, but I'm acronym-deprived. What is CRT?

 
 
 
Kavika
Professor Principal
4.2.4  Kavika   replied to  Buzz of the Orient @4.2.3    3 weeks ago

Critical race theory which conservatives don’t want taught. 

 
 
 
Buzz of the Orient
Professor Principal
4.2.6  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  Kavika @4.2.4    3 weeks ago

Thanks, Kavika.  I searched an acronym translater site that had more than 100 possibilities and none seemed relevant, but Critical Race Theory wasn't on it (yet, I guess).  Of course Judaism isn't a race, it's a religion, and there are Jews of every colour, so maybe CRT doesn't apply.

 
 
 
Split Personality
PhD Principal
4.2.7  Split Personality  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @4.2.6    3 weeks ago

It's about denying prejudice. It's very appropriate in my opinion and that of the teaching Rabbi's in all of the links I posted where they said outlawing CRT was paramount to outlawing teaching about the Holocaust.

Banning critical race theory will gut the teaching of Jewish history | Henry Abramson | The Blogs (timesofisrael.com)

 
 
 
Split Personality
PhD Principal
4.2.8  Split Personality  replied to  Split Personality @4.2.7    3 weeks ago

Actually all of the links I used in a previous seed were from JTA

 
 
 
Buzz of the Orient
Professor Principal
4.2.9  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  Split Personality @4.2.7    3 weeks ago

Okay SP, you're right.

 
 
 
Krishna
Professor Principal
4.2.10  Krishna  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @4.2.6    3 weeks ago
Thanks, Kavika.  I searched an acronym translater site that had more than 100 possibilities and none seemed relevant, but Critical Race Theory wasn't on it (yet, I guess)

While the concept may not be new, I believe the actual term itself (CRT  AKA "Critical race Theory") hasn't been arounbd very long,.

 
 
 
Krishna
Professor Principal
4.2.11  Krishna  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @4.2.1    3 weeks ago

Apparently anti-Semitismism very rare in China. From what I've read, most current day Chinese (In China) have a stereotype of Jews that is very favourable.

From what I know of American Chinese cultural values as well as those of American Jews, it seems to me the group most like American Jews is-- Chinese Americans!

In general people in both groups place a high-- sometimes even borderline fanatical-- value on education and learning. Both groups seem to place a lot of emphasis of the values of traditional values passed down through centuries (Like the song "Tradition" in Fiddler on the Roof illustrates...and Chinese "Ancestor Worship"). And traditional Chinese teach their kids to have high respect for older people (because thay are the ones who can pass down the wisdom the culture has accumulated over many centuriesJ

And IIRC, in much of traditional Chinese culture (especially the Buddhists) teachers are highly respected...also a big deal in traditional Jewish culture.

(I believe the traditional Korean cultures also have a tremendous respect for teachers as well).

 

 
 
 
Krishna
Professor Principal
4.2.12  Krishna  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @4.2.1    3 weeks ago
The Chinese were a lot more welcoming of the Jewish refugees than America or Canada who did not allow the refugees to disembark from the SS St. Louis,

FDR ddi some great stuff-- for example his economic policies (which were basically Socialism) got us out of the great depression. But OTOH he was blatantly racist:

Roosevelt expressed racist attitudes towards Jews, both in public and private. [10]  As a  Harvard  administrator in 1923, he helped institute a quota for Jewish students. [10]  

According to historian Rafael Medoff, "Roosevelt’s unflattering statements about Jews consistently reflected one of several interrelated notions: that is was undesirable to have too many Jews in any single profession, institution, or geographic locale; that America was by nature, and should remain, an overwhelmingly white, Protestant country; and that Jews on the whole possessed certain innate and distasteful characteristics. (LINK)

And then, of course, there was the forced internment in detention camps of Japanese Americans. (Of course nothing like that was done with German-Americans, because after all they were "White".)

 
 
 
Buzz of the Orient
Professor Principal
4.2.13  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  Krishna @4.2.12    3 weeks ago

Bingo!!!

 
 
 
Buzz of the Orient
Professor Principal
4.2.14  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  Krishna @4.2.11    3 weeks ago
"Apparently anti-Semitismism very rare in China. From what I've read, most current day Chinese (In China) have a stereotype of Jews that is very favourable."

The Chinese particularly admire Jews for their business acumen, the ability to make money.  In fact even books are published in Chinese about how to succeed in business like Jewish businessmen.

 
 
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