Long before the Kabul of Afghanistan there was the Kabul of Galilee. Hiram, king of Tyre, was displeased with the 20 cities gifted by Solomon. He named them the Land of Cabul (Kabul), which meant “good for nothing.”
During the Babylonian exile, many Jews migrated to the land that eventually became Afghanistan. They have become so much a part of the history of this country that the Pashtun, the main Afghan ethnic group that has many Taliban supporters, believe they are descendants of the lost tribes of Israel who converted to Islam. The Pashtuns claim that Kabul stands for “Cain and Abel” and Afghanistan is derived from “Afghana,” the grandson of King Saul of the tribe of Benjamin.
Only a handful of the Jews in Afghanistan who did not convert to Islam are left, and only one left in Kabul today: Zablon Simintov.
I recently read an article about Simintov refusing to leave Kabul even after someone offered to fly a private plane to rescue him. Simintov met this offer and other with lame and unlikely excuses even though he has nothing left in this city. His business closed and his family left for Israel long time ago. He lives in and takes care of a deteriorating synagogue that nobody attends. Under the new Taliban-run regime, the fate of the Simintov and his synagogue are uncertain, but the man won’t leave. Strangely, I understand him.
“A fiddler on the roof. Sounds crazy, no? But in our little village of Anatevka, you might say every one of us is a fiddler on the roof, trying to scratch out a pleasant, simple tune without breaking his neck. It isn’t easy. You may ask, why do we stay up there if it’s so dangerous? We stay because Anatevka is our home… And how do we keep our balance? That I can tell you in one word… Tradition,” there you have it, the key to the story from the monologue of Tevye the Dairyman, the main character of the beloved musical.
There are people who are not meant to have a “fresh start.” They are the remnants rooted in what cannot be transplanted. Leaving or starting a new life for them means losing themselves. Sometimes you just can’t do it, even if no one else understands, even if it seems “good for nothing” and hopeless