Rescuers: Last Jew of Kabul making his way to Israel

Israel Last Afghan Jew

JERUSALEM (AP) — The man known as the last Jew of Kabul could soon be heading to Israel, after agreeing to grant his estranged wife a religious divorce in a Zoom call — a precondition for smooth entry to the Holy Land.

Zebulon Simentov, who fled Afghanistan last month after the Taliban takeover, landed Sunday in Turkey on what his rescuers say is a final stop before traveling to Israel, perhaps as soon as this week.

It caps a weekslong odyssey that included an escape from his homeland as well as a videoconference divorce procedure meant to ensure he will not run into trouble with Israeli authorities.

Under Jewish religious law, a husband must agree to grant his wife a divorce, something he had refused to do for many years. Facing the prospect of legal action in Israel, where his ex-wife lives, Simentov, after resisting for years, finally agreed to the divorce last month in a special Zoom call supervised by Australian rabbinical authorities.

The Associated Press viewed part of the proceeding. During the sometimes chaotic discussion, conducted through an interpreter who struggled to explain the procedure, Simentov agrees to sign a divorce document known as a “get” after receiving assurances that he will not face trouble in Israel.

Rabbi Moshe Margaretten, whose nonprofit group Tzedek Association funded the journey, said Simentov had spent the last few weeks living quietly in Pakistan, an Islamic country that does not have diplomatic relations with Israel.

He said his group had looked into bringing Simentov to the U.S. but decided that Israel was a better destination both because of difficulties in arranging a U.S. entry visa and because Simentov has many relatives, including five siblings and two daughters, already in Israel.

“We are relieved we were successful in helping Zebulon Simentov escape from Afghanistan and now into safety in Turkey,” said Margaretten, whose group has helped evacuate several dozen other people from Afghanistan. “Zebulon’s life was in danger in Afghanistan.”

Rabbi Mendy Chitrik, chairman of the Alliance of Rabbis in Islamic States, greeted Simentov at the airport in Istanbul on Sunday.

He said he had an appointment to take Simentov to the Israeli consulate on Monday to arrange his entry to Israel. Under Israel’s “Law of Return,” any Jew is entitled to Israeli citizenship.