A religious group called the “Black Hebrews” emigrated from the United States to Israel in 1969. Its members claim they are descendents of the exiled tribe of Judah, driven out of Jerusalem during the First Century, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

However, unlike the Falasha Jews of Ethopia, there is no historical or archaeological evidence to substantiate such fanciful claims. Instead, like many groups called “cults,” the Black Hebrews depend upon their leader to define the group.

Ben Carter a steelworker from Chicago calls himself “Ben Ammi Ben Israel” and is the founder and leader of the Black Hebrews. And like so many cult leaders he has fantastic claims, which the group’s beliefs are based upon.

Ben says, the “Archangel Gabriel told him that many African Americans were descendants of the lost Israeli tribe of Judah.”


He then found and gathered together his own tribe of 30 disciples, which were then designated as rediscovered “Jews” from the “Tribe of Judah.”

First, the group followed Ben to Africa and stayed there for two years to be “purified.” Subsequently, Carter led them to the “Promised Land,” which ultimately turned out to be an Israeli refugee community called Dimona.

The Black Hebrews largely live on the dole in Dimona. They have remained there for thirty years because the Israeli authorities reject their claims of Jewish identity and apparently don’t know what else to do with them.

Efforts to expel the group Israelis often call a “cult” has been met with political protests from the United States and hunger strikes in Dimona.

The group has grown to 2,000, largely through its high birth rate fostered by polygamy.

The supposedly “ancient faith” practiced by the Black Hebrews is actually an odd, idiosyncratic and eclectic mix of observances concocted by Ben Ammi. He continues to dictate virtually everything the group does. Pictures of Ben Ammi dominate the homes of the insular community.

Interestingly, Jewish authorities have offered Ben Ammi who is now 63 and his followers Jewish identity through recognized conversion. However, like most cults the Black Hebrews reject anything, but what their leader defines as the “true faith.”

But though Ben Ammi has rejected Israel’s offer to become a recognized Jew, the group has accepted working papers, temporary residency, health insurance and social security benefits.


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