The last Jew in Afghanistan


Tell me someone else has read the Night Watch books and rushed to the comment section to post about the head of the Day Watch living in Afghanistan.


It’s a common scenario. Jews can never be a numerically significant portion of any country’s population except for Israel. At most there are only about 13 million of them on Earth: at least 20 cities worldwide have bigger populations than that. Such tiny minorities are prone to extinction from any number of causes even without the Jewish problem of not belonging to any one of the hundreds of local One True Sects of the One True Religion.

The only place attempting to reverse the trend is Spain. They’ve decided that they’re sorry about a Pogrom in the area about 500 years ago and have instituted a Right Of Return there.

The shrinkage is especially concentrated in Middle Eastern countries claiming to support the Palestinians. There a combination of easy access to a land where Jews have property rights (!!) and torch-welding, often government sponsored, mobs elsewhere have contributed to the Jewish Nakba or Exodus in the region. The differences between the Jewish refugees and the Palestinians are that the amount of real estate confiscated is an order of magnitude larger in the Jewish case and that, due to draconian Middle Eastern anti-immigration policies (often specific to them), the Palestinians had nowhere to go.

Excuse the pedantry, but I thought the turn of the 20th century was 113 years ago.

Also, it must take some courage to be so outnumbered. Must take a great deal of faith.

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To blanket.

It seems Zebulun Simantov is one of those media stories that gets trotted out every year or so. Turns out that from my synagogue I know one of his cousins (probably distant) who is a rabbi and practitioner of eastern medicine who splits his time between Tokyo & Jerusalem.

Actually Germany did its own law of return a while back and currently has the biggest growing Jewish population in Europe. Spain is just the most recent.


Keep in mind that many of these population exchanges were endorsed and created by the colonial powers at the end of the second world war and enforced by them. Unlike say, the generally tolerant Ottoman Empire (where many Jews fled to after the reconquesta), Europeans spent centuries ethnically or perhaps more properly, religiously cleansing their lands of Jews and Muslims. There are some who would continue that today for Muslims and Romani.

In places like Saudi Arabia, they do the same to non-orthodox Muslims as well, with Sufis being often hard hit. The Saudis themselves are keen proponents of exporting “the one true religion” to the world, spending billions to convert Muslims they see as non-Orthodox. It doesn’t even begin to address their treatment of Shi’ia in Saudi Arabia The US underwrites this, as much as we underwrite the situation in the Palestinian territories. The big boogey man in the region for the Israeli government is Iran, and they have a better track record on including Jews in public life–they are in the Parliament and are allowed to visit Israel.

That doesn’t excuse the land grabs in the West Bank. It doesn’t excuse Israeli policy towards Palestinians in Israel. It doesn’t excuse collective punishment in Gaza. As for the rest of the middle east “supporting” the Palestinians, this has become a joke at best. They make noise about it, but they don’t really do anything. No one is going to do anything. It’s against their economic and strategic interest to do anything, because we’d stop sending them copious amounts of cash, at least directly. I don’t think any of the militaries in the region could stand up the the IDF anyway, do you? Israel is easily the predominant power in the region, in terms of military prowess. They are not threatened in any meaningful way by any of the countries that surround them.

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Theres an old line about how “the Arab world supports the Palistinian cause right down to the last Palestinian”. Kinda sad but then again maybe that whole Black September thing in Jordan kinda soured some folks on the mater.

Not if history teaches us anything. :smiley:

In the interests of disclosure I’ve got friends now in the IDF and it looks like a family member will serve in a few years so yeah I’m a biased Zionist.

The Palestinian issue has become a way to deflect criticism aimed at these governments internally - but actually seeking to do something about it would undermine their connections to the West. “Don’t look at how we are actively suppressing you guys, look at those evil Jews.” They dont’ give a shit about the Palestinians, they care about enhancing their own control over their territories.

That being said, the Israeli government does the same thing in regards the Palestinians and other Arab states. It’s a tactic of modern state rule and it functions on a number of levels. Check out Usama Makdisi’s book Faith Misplaced on the relationship between the US and the Arab world and the role Israel/Palestine plays in that. Most interesting is the shift in the 70s-90s under Sadat and Mubarak in Egypt in regards to Israel and the US, with the camp David accords worked out by Carter serving to guarantee a mass privatization of Egyptian infrastructure. There was also an active Cold War project to dismantle secular, leftist states in the Middle East, which privileged more religiously oriented regimes like the Saudis. This disproportionately benefited the Israelis, in that it split the Palestinian opposition (led by the secular PLO), giving rise to more Islamists leaning groups, that excluded the numerous non-Muslim Palestinians.

Well, Israel does have a requirement for military service, which means young people have to serve (except for some Orthodox sects, which skate out on religious requirement). Egypt has a requirement as well, for whatever that is worth.

For myself, I’m a critic of Israeli policies in regards to the Palestinians. But I guess that was obvious.

Edited to add: Read some Talal Asad and his discussion on debates around modern states and violence:

All formal religious communities are declining. Do you know where your baptismal certificate is? It’s a good bet that your great grandparents knew where theirs were, and that you don’t, if you even have one.

Interesting, I looked it up and:

1 Tel Aviv      3M
2 New York      2M
3 Haifa         655k
4 LA            621k
5 Jerusalem     570k
6 S Florida     514k
7 Paris         310k
8 Philadelphia  276k
9 Chicago       261k
10 Buenos Aires 244k

I think its a bit off to describe the PLO of the 70s as “secular” even if Arafat presented himself as such in English to the West. There are two factors to look at

  1. In this time period the PLO was hardly a unified entity, more a umbrella term covering a frequently shifting set of factions each with their own goals and ideologies, some more “secular” and some more “Islamist”. Some more influenced by Moscow, some more influenced by the work of Hassan al-Banna either directly or indirectly. I’m not even entirely sure that any particular faction could be described as entirely secular or entirely Islamist anyway.
  2. All the Arab leaders who became familiar names in the West during the Cold War (or should I say Cold War 1?) including Arafat were well versed in the art of differentiating what they said to the West vs what they said in Arabic. This skill serves current day Arabic leaders including Abbas to this day. I’d venture to say some of this skill was learned while under British rule but the flavor we see since the 70s is probably more influenced by studies in Moscow specifically on how to craft message for Western sympathies.

I’m familiar with the idea that you present that the PLO was split by American influence however from what I’ve read the idea contains more apologetics than I can really stomach especially in regards to non Muslim Arabs of the region. The Druze for example picked a side early on as did various Christian Arab groups which could not be said to align with any part of what we conveniently refer to as the PLO.

This situation has been changing in recent years and a very recent bill in the Knesset would severely reduce Charedi (ultra Orthodox) exemptions from mandatory service. A year or two ago I met a Charedi man here in Tokyo who was a decorated sharp shooter from his time in the IDF and he’d helped advise his unit commander on how to adjust unit kitchen services to meet the particular kashrut needs of Charedi men and women on active duty.

Fair enough. All I could ever ask is that you be objective as a critic and seek to be balanced and well informed. This is complicated due to the difficulties of the languages involved.

Interesting article. My concern there is that Mr Asad approaches his from a Western Christian perspective of universality which does not entirely align with the thought systems of the non Western Christian world. I won’t presume to nit pick the article though as that would be too far above my pay grade and take us too far off topic.

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