Fascinating article about the Black Hebrews who left Chicago (and the US) to settle in Israel, often under duress. The African Hebrew Hebrew Israelites persevered and flourished in the desert village of Dimona1 long enough to become assimilated, and even nearly accepted by the Israeli citizens.
Elyahkeem Ben Yehuda could have become another statistic, growing up poor, black and fatherless on the west side of Chicago during the 1950s.
But he never had a run-in with the law, nor did he see the inside of a jail cell, until he moved to Israel to join the African Hebrew Israelite community. “I had to come to Israel to get my first experience in jail,” he said. “But in those days, that was like a badge of honor, to be arrested for God and His people.”
Last month, the 62-year-old Ben Yehuda — father of 10 children and husband of 3 women — became the first member of his community to gain full Israeli citizenship. Looking back on the hurdles he overcame since his 1971 arrival, Ben Yehuda mused, “I can only describe this journey in relationship to my forefathers,” referring to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. “They were able to endure. As long as we put fulfilling the will of the God of Israel first, there’s no challenge that we can’t overcome.”
The African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem — or Black Hebrews, as they are more commonly known (though not all members are black) — have sparred with the Israeli government for decades over their right to immigrate to Israel under the Law of Return. It is a right they still do not have. But presaging Ben Yehuda’s achievement last month, Israel granted the community permanent residency status in 2003, offering its 3,000 members a five-year path to apply for citizenship on an individual basis. It’s a process that many others are now undertaking.
[Click to continue reading Once Reviled, Black Hebrews Now Fêted – Forward.com]
via Michael Hawthorne‘s Friday afternoon twitter feed
The African Hebrew Israelites web page offers a bit of their history:
In 1966 our spiritual leader, Ben Ammi, had a vision that it was time for the Children of Israel who remained in America (the land of their captivity) to return to the Holy Land (the land of their origin).
In 1967, after almost two thousand years in the Diaspora, four hundred Hebrew Israelites were inspired by the spirit of God to make an exodus from America. According to plan, they settled in Liberia’s interior to purge themselves of the negative attributes they had acquired in the captivity. After spending a two-and-one-half year period in Liberia, The African Hebrew Israelites were prepared to make the last portion of their journey home, returning to Israel in 1969.
In today’s world, man has created so many diversions from and substitutions for the true worship of God that the people have lost their way. We realized just how far we had been led away from God and were astounded by the drastic changes required for those of us who desired to fulfill our responsibility to God as Hebrew Israelites. Nonetheless, we have committed ourselves to the high degree of courage and discipline required to establish an alternative lifestyle that is in harmony with the cycles of God.
[Click to read more of Our Philosophy]
I don’t know if the Black Hebrews have done any deep DNA study, but they explain their origins thusly:
Prior to the excavation of the Suez Canal (1859-69) the entire Arabian Peninsula and what has become known today as the ”Middle East” were physically connected with the African continent. African people lived and moved freely throughout this region of the world.
After the invasion of the Romans in 70 C.E., remnants of the Hebrew Israelites were driven from Jerusalem. For more than 1,000 years many of them migrated across the continent, eventually reaching West Africa.
“Soul Messages from Dimona” (Various Artists)
Update2 via Kumar303’s twitter feed, the African Hebrew Israelites have put out an album called, Soul Messages From Dimona:
Following a path blazed in Belize and the Bahamas, The Numero Group finds yet another stop on the soul diaspora tour: Dimona, Israel. Between 1975-1981, a group of American ex-pats took their native sounds of Detroit and Chicago and intermingled them with the messages of the Black Hebrew culture. The results are a heavenly mix of spiritual soul and jazz with an undercurrent of gospel psychedelia. Featuring the Soul Messengers, the Spirit Of Israel, Sons Of The Kingdom, and the Tonistics, Soul Messages From Dimona is the only living document of a thriving community at both the center and fringe of the world.
Deluxe CD and 2LP set comes stuffed with rare photographs, sleeves, and expansive liner notes about the African Hebrew