DIMONA, Israel — In the schoolyard, facing the Hebrew Israelite community in their festive African clothes, Ben-Ami Carter excitedly raised his right hand a week ago like an athlete displaying the trophy he has just won: His new, light-blue Israeli identity card. Black emigrants from Chicago in the early 1960s were offered Israeli citizenship last week after a long struggle.
“Hallelujah,” Mr. Carter called out.
“Hallelujah,” his congregation rejoined time and again.
Interior Minister Avraham Poraz, standing beside Mr. Carter last Wednesday, told the group that they, too, would soon get ID cards recognizing them as permanent residents of this land. “It’s been a long struggle,” said U.S. Ambassador Dan Kurtzer who told the Hebrew Israelites he will continue to be their ambassador.
“I guess you can call this the best moment [of my life in Israel],” said Haraymiel Ben-Shaleak, 56.
It was a very hot morning in the desert town of Dimona, but gray-bearded Mr. Ben-Sheleak showed up in a black outfit. He wore a necklace with a gold Menorah.
“This culminates the 2,000 years of exile,” he said.
“The promise of the Creator that we will return to this land [is now] accepted and recognized by the whole of Israel. … The beautiful thing about it [is that] it took less than 40 years,” he added.
Mr. Ben-Shaleak was alluding to the 40 years in the wilderness that the ancient Hebrews, led by Moses, spent in their trek from Egypt to the Promised Land. It took the government of Israel 34 years to accept the Hebrew Israelites, also known as black Hebrews, as permanent residents.
The first Hebrew Israelite group arrived in December 1969. The government then did not know what to make of those American blacks who suddenly showed up and said their ancestors were here.
In the early 1960s, there were several groups in Chicago that blended a form of Judaism with black nationalism, explained Morris Lounds Jr., in his book “Israel’s Black Hebrews.” The Hebrew Israelites originated in Chicago and won followers elsewhere in the United States.
Prince Immanuel Ben-Yehuda, 48, who was born in Oklahoma as Leon Dubbs, recalled in an interview that his grandfather always told them, “We were descendents … of the biblical Israelites; that we were the people of the Bible, Israel is our homeland, the Bible is our history.”
“When I was a kid, I didn’t think a lot about it. I wanted to go outside and play ball. … But as I grew older, roots and heritage became very important to me … and my grandfather’s words would come back,” he said.
Members believe that the ancient Hebrews turned against their Creator and were exiled. They reached North Africa and then migrated to Central and West Africa. “Many of us were taken into slavery there, along with other African tribes [and sent] to America,” said Yaffa Bat-Gavriel, 45, their spokeswoman.View Entire Story
By Andrew P. Napolitano
The president's men trash the Constitution to pursue antagonists
Independent voices from the TWT Communities
Columns from Voices around the World talking about the events, people, politics and social issues that concern us wherever, and whoever, we are.
Are there profound differences between the Left and the Right? You betcha.
Wall Street news before (and occasionally after) the opening bell.
Benghazi: The anatomy of a scandal
Vietnam Memorial adds four names
Cinco de Mayo on the Mall
NRA kicks off annual convention