A people who have pride and are able to point to certain successes that have been elusive for the African world
By Simona Kogan Israel21c
Deep in the heart of Israel's Negev desert, where you would expect to find mostly camels and sand, a community of expatriate black Americans has made a new life for itself in towns like Dimona, Arad and Mitzpe Ramon.
They call themselves the African Hebrew Israelites, but they are better known in Israel as the Black Hebrews, a 2,000-strong religious group dressed in colorful African prints made of natural fabrics like silk and linen according to their doctrine. And while it's taken most of the 40 years they've been residing in Israel to feel like part of the country, today Black Hebrews can be found in many facets of Israeli society - from the army to the entertainment industry.
"We are a people who have pride and are able to point to certain successes that have been elusive for the African world," says national spokesman Ahmadiel Ben-Yehuda, who lives in Dimona, but spent time in Ghana, South Africa, and other African locations studying African cultural connections and migration patterns.
The Black Hebrews movement originated in Chicago in 1966 when their leader Ben-Ami Ben-Yisrael, then a steel worker named Ben Carter, had a vision where the Archangel Gabriel revealed to him that African Americans were descended from the lost tribe of Judah. In 70 CE, the Israelites were exiled from Jerusalem by the Romans and ended up in West Africa where they were later transported to America as slaves.
See: An oasis of African-American soul in Israel's desert