On the 40th Shavuot since their triumphant exodus from the United States in 1967, the Black Hebrews had ample cause to rejoice
By Ben Piven
With a vibrant community of about 2000 proud souls mostly residing in the north Negev town of Dimona, the group celebrated stunningly good health and longevity.
Compared with distressing health statistics of African-Americans living in the United States, the Black Hebrews have largely avoided the dominant Western medical scourges: cancer, heart attack, diabetes, and stroke. According to a study conducted by a group of American researchers in 1998, elevated blood pressure is about 1/5 and obesity about 1/6 that of the average rate for African-Americans. Moreover, a minute number of hospital calls originate in their section of Dimona.
"We are not a religion but a way of life," said Hecumliel Ha-Kohen, one of 14 priests in the community, which is formally called the African Hebrew Israelite Nation of Jerusalem, often shortened to Hebrew Israelites.
"The movement's collective consciousness is rooted in the essence of the Hebrew Bible. We've seen observable, positive consequences of following these traditions," said Hecumliel.
"Generally, we are asserting the power of village life over the temptations of modern urban life," said Ahmadiyah ben Yehuda, a community doctor. "As a light unto the nations and unto Israel, we say 'no' to the things that seek to destroy life," said Ahmadiyah. "So-called normal diseases just don't exist here."
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