Zebulon Simentov, known as the last surviving Jew in Afghanistan, arrived in Turkey on Sunday, and may be headed for a new life in Israel … or New York. Fleeing Kabul in September as the Taliban took over, Simentov spent the past month in a safehouse in Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad. There, he finally granted his wife, via Zoom, the writ of divorce that she had sought, and that he had refused to give her for two decades. According to Jewish religious law, a married couple remains married unless the husband gives a “get,” the writ of divorce, to his wife; without this, she cannot remarry in a religious ceremony even if they are living apart for many years. His now ex-wife and two daughters, along with five siblings, live in Israel, and granting the divorce that he had long avoided was a condition laid down by Rabbi Mendy Chitrik, the chief Ashkenazi rabbi of Turkey and director of the Alliance of Rabbis in Islamic States, for helping Simentov to immigrate to the Jewish state. It’s not clear, however, if that’s where Simentov will end up. His first choice is the United States, where he also has family. Simentov, known for his stubbornness not only regarding his marriage – he lived for years in Kabul’s synagogue with the second-to-last Jew in the country though the two men refused to speak to each other – had a condition of his own: If you take me out of Afghanistan, rescue my neighbors, as well. Thus, Moti Kahana, the Israeli-American businessman who funded Simentov’s personal exodus, also paid for the transport of 30 other Afghans, including many children, out of the country.
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