Morteza Nikoubazl Photography

Jewish footprint in Herat

Records of a Jewish population in Afghanistan go back to the 7th century. In 1080, Moses ibn Ezra mentions 40,000 Jews paying tribute to Ghazni, and Benjamin of Tudela in the 12th century counts 80,000 Jews. In the course of Genghis Khan’s 1222 invasion, the Jewish communities were reduced to isolated pockets. Only in 1839, the population increased again, swelled by refugees from Persia, reaching some 40,000.

By 1948, over 5,000 Jews existed in Afghanistan, and after they were allowed to emigrate in 1951, most of them moved to Israel and the United States. Afghanistan was the only Muslim country that allowed Jewish families to immigrate without revoking their citizenship first. Afghan Jews left the country en masse in the 1960s, their exile to New York and Tel Aviv was motivated by a search for a better life but not because of religious persecution. By 1969, some 300 remained, and most of these left after the Soviet invasion of 1979, leaving 10 Afghan Jews in 1996. During and after the rise of the Taliban, hundreds of Jewish afghans had either converted to Islam or disguised themselves as Muslims, the converts to Islam still practised Judaism secretly and adopted Muslim names. Due to the high number of fake conversions the actual number of Jews in Afghanistan is much greater than the recorded amount. It is thought that there are still 500-1000 secret Jews in Afghanistan. More than 10,000 Jews of Afghan descent presently live in Israel. Over 200 families of Afghan Jews live in New York City in USA. Over 100 Jews of Afghan descent live in London in UK. According to Wikipedia