- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 16, 2003

Ben Ammi Ben-Israel, an American who recently won permanent-resident status in Israel for a group of vegetarian polygamists known as the Black Hebrews, now has set his sights on running for prime minister.

Mr. Ben-Israel, 64, also known as Ben Carter, moved his American followers to Israel in 1969, settling about 2,500 of them in Dimona, a township in the Negev Desert.

The group was granted permanent residency in August, opening the door for what Mr. Ben-Israel said will be a “spiritual” political campaign designed to culminate in 2010.

“I am not a politician,” he said last week in an interview. “And I feel that there needs to be an injection of spirituality in the Holy Land, and that simply means in our search for peace, we must involve the words of the prophets. …

“In the next seven years,” he said, “I will be moving through Israel sharing our positions and our viewpoints. And I would like to think that within seven years the people of Israel will have the comfort that would be needed to accept me as the spiritual guide for them.”

Mr. Ben-Israel, making his first U.S. tour since his group earned permanent-resident status, also said the Black Hebrews plan to complete a $32 million 282-home community in Dimona within the next two years.

Most of his followers have lived in a secluded community of bungalows since coming to what they have termed “the kingdom of God on earth” under the direction of Mr. Ben-Israel, who they call their “anointed spiritual leader.”

Mr. Ben-Israel, a former metallurgist and member of a black Jewish group in Chicago, said he left the United States because of a vision calling him to lead an initial group of 350 black Americans to Liberia in 1967.

Two years later, the group moved on to Israel, claiming to be descended from one of ancient Israel’s 10 lost tribes by way of Africa. That claim was rejected by most rabbinical scholars but, despite numerous deportations, the group managed to remain in Israel on tourist visas until being granted temporary residence status in 1990 and permanent status this year.

“It was a milestone not only for us, but for African-Americans,” Mr. Ben-Israel said. “It was not just a victory for us. It was a victory for all.”

Mr. Ben-Israel expects to have visited Atlanta, Dallas, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., by the end of this month. He said he will address Black Hebrews on worship and spirituality while warning nonbelievers about “the nutritional genocide” they are inflicting upon themselves by eating sugar and dairy products.

He said his community’s lifestyle has left it free of cancer and obesity and with few cases of heart disease.

He said he also wants to personally thank U.S. politicians who helped the group to achieve permanent-resident status in Israel, including Reps. Danny K. Davis, Illinois Democrat, and Charles B. Rangel, New York Democrat.

“These individuals in the political arena have been very helpful,” Mr. Ben-Israel said. “The list is endless.”

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