Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Theatre: The Last Jew in Kabul

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Theatre: The Last Jew in Kabul

Article excerpt

I was researching for a play I still haven't written about conspiracy theories, when I came across the story which forms the basis of My Brother's Keeper. A Reuters journalist had discovered the last two Jews of Afghanistan in late November 2001, hiding out in a dilapidated synagogue in Kabul.

They claimed to be all that remained in the country of a Jewish community dating back to the Babylonian exile, and had survived the terrors of the Russian invasion, the civil war and the Taliban regime. But, most interesting of all, they hated each other.

On the surface it looked like the ultimate in anti-Semitic hoaxes. A Protocols of the Elders of Zion for the globalised, online age: "Two Jews. In a state torn apart by war and pinned together by sharia law. And they hate each other. Oh, those Jews!"


It seemed a spiteful version of the joke about the Jewish desert island castaway who builds two synagogues. When quizzed about them by his rescuers, he points at one and says: "That one, I don't go to." So I dug a little deeper, and the impossible story turned out to be ... well, kosher. Yitzhak Levy and Zebulon Simanto were the world's tiniest minority, practically imprisoned in the small building that served as their home, their synagogue, their separate but conjoined universe.

They were chalk and cheese, or rather milk and meat. Yitzhak was long and wiry, with an equally long and wiry beard; thoroughly Afghan and as old as the mountains. Zebulon was short, fat and clean-shaven; distinctly European in cardigans and spectacles and only in his early forties. …

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