According to the Art Newspaper, the Taliban government is supporting a conservation project for the historic synagogue in Herat, western Afghanistan, despite the fact that Jews haven’t resided there for decades.
The synagogue is thought to have been constructed around the start of the 20th century.
The goal of the 16-month renovation, which will begin in November, is to save the Yu Aw synagogue’s structure from collapsing.
The Aliph Foundation, a Swiss organization dedicated to preserving culturally significant sites in crisis zones, provides funding for the project with close to $500,000.
It is being prepared by the Herat municipality and other regional groups. The Hammam-e Mosaie community mikvah will also be repaired as part of the project.
The synagogue most recently had a two-year renovation project funded by another Swiss charity and finished in 2009.
It operated as a center for women’s and children’s education for a while until being shut down again in 2014 owing to seepage from a “poorly constructed, UN-funded municipal drainage channel on the nearby road,” according to the Art Newspaper.
Additionally, it is not a project focused on Jewish heritage.
The Jewish population of Herat, which had once numbered in the tens of thousands, had decreased to only 280 Jewish families by 1948.
Many of these families relocated to Israel or the US after the creation of the state of Israel, and by the 1970s, the local Jewish population was entirely gone.
Nearly all Afghanistan’s Jews left the country in the following decades, with Zebulon Simantov being a notable exception.
Simantov was born in Herat and remained in Afghanistan despite numerous security risks until September 2021, one month after the Taliban, a radical Islamist regime that the US considers a terrorist organization, retook power.
Simantov traveled to Israel, where his former spouse had been residing with their two girls while she awaited his decision to grant her the religious divorce he had been withholding.