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But when a second group of 39 Black Hebrews arrived in December , the immigration authorities questioned their eligibility for citizenship by challenging their claim to being Jews.
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They issued them only tourist visas. When a third group of 49 arrived in March , the Israelis realized what was happening: The Black Hebrews were immigrating to Israel under the questionable claim of being Jews.
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Although the third group was finally admitted on humanitarian grounds - to visit their relatives - Israel's immigration authorities were ordered not to allow any more Black Hebrews into the country. The Black Hebrews' claim to Jewishness delayed any official action while Israel's high court adjudicated the issue.
Carter attempted to prove that his sect fit the definition by submitting the same scriptural references he had preached in Chicago. There was not a single historic link with the Jewish people, however, that went beyond the passages plucked from the Old Testament. Nor did the group's religious duties conform to Jewish tradition and practice. The Black Hebrews did not recognize the Oral Law, which sets detailed guidelines for implementing the Hebrew commandments contained in the Written Law. They adhered to a strictly vegetarian diet. Their religious observances contained elements of American black fundamentalism.
They fasted from Sabbath eve until the end of Sabbath, and during their service they sang black gospels. Carter's revelations also allowed polygamy, which Jews have not practiced for centuries. Each male could take up to seven wives, who were given inferior roles within the group, serving the men at home. All of the arguments put forward by Ben-Ami Carter failed to fulfill the definition required under the Law of Return. An individual must show a mother who was Jewish, or some evidence of conversion to Judaism, along with evidence that he does not belong to any other religion.
The Black Hebrews fell short on all points. But in a moment of charity before the final hearing on the matter, Israeli Government authorities suggested that the issue could easily be settled if the Black Hebrews converted.
Black Hebrew woman subjected to racist tirade on bus
Carter vehemently refused, insisting that such a conversion would imply that the Black Hebrews were not the ''real'' Jews. The Israeli Supreme Court subsequently rejected the Black Hebrews' claim, ruling: ''In effect, this community is a separate sect, distinct from Judaism and remote from the Jewish world, its traditions and its culture and its heritage down the generations. The Israelis had the legal right to expel the cult but they quickly realized that it was no longer a matter of deporting a small band of black Americans.
The sect's numbers had swelled to 2,, primarily as new members had infiltrated the country as tourists.
No Government official seemed anxious to take action against them, fearing a charge of racism from the world press, and it was soon clear that Ben-Ami Carter would bring the issue to the news media's attention. Carter declared war on the Israeli Government, unleashing a propaganda campaign that took on a viciously anti-Semitic and racist tone. The Baltimore Sun carried an interview with Carter on Nov.
In the Black Hebrews' own journal on Sept.
Dimona Black Hebrews
Reports filtered back to Israel of the extreme statements that appeared in an underground black paper in San Francisco in September , quoting an Associated Press account in which the Black Hebrews declared: ''The Jews carry out the very same kind of abominable deeds which they claim Hitler perpetrated. They are the same Jews who stole the Palestinians' homeland and drove them out like animals into refugee camps where they are living in inhuman conditions.
Let us tear away the veil from these Israeli criminals. We call upon our black brethren to rise up against the Jewish subjection of our community. These same racialist Jews have got control of all the arteries of our economic life.
Life Today – African Hebrew Israelites
In the storm of unceasing propaganda, the Black Hebrews petitioned black members of the United States Congress to boycott all Jewish businesses in the United States. In October , International Ambassador Asiel Ben-Israel called upon supporters in the United States to seek a halt to all United States aid in money, arms and food to Israel, to boycott all Jewish-owned businesses and Jewish political candidates, to sever all black church contacts with Israel and to end tourism to Israel. Carter's vitriolic attacks turned Israeli public sentiment against the Black Hebrews. Their bright African dress and rich music had been welcomed in the bland atmosphere of the desert towns.
The Black Hebrew singing groups had even performed with acclaim from Israeli military forces during the Yom Kippur War. At the same time, there surfaced some explicit complaints from the Israeli citizens who lived next to the Black Hebrew families that had received the illegal infiltrators into their homes.
The overcrowding was intolerable, they said, with sometimes 30 people in a single apartment. The high density clogged sewers and sanitary facilities, making conditions worse than in slum areas in the United States. The residents spoke of a general lowering of the quality of life. Apartment prices slumped.
Those Israelis who wanted to sell their homes found there were no buyers. When the Government failed to address these complaints, the residents formed citizen committees to take matters into their own hands. For years, Hanoch Platner and his wife, Fruma, lived in Dimona and watched their friends and neighbors move away as the Black Hebrews moved closer. When the Platners learned that the newcomers had purchased an apartment adjacent to their stairwell, they took action.
It was not without agonizing personal examination. Maybe that's why it took us so much time to come to this decision, but after all we've been through, to come to Israel and be told by these people that we're not good enough Jews, that's it. Hanoch and Fruma erected an iron gate across the entrance to their stairwell to keep their black neighbors out. Other Dimonans put up gates as well. We should have done this years ago. Instead, we let the Government and blacks push us around. Never again! Platner insists that his action was not racially motivated. Bernard Resnikoff of the American Jewish Committee in Jerusalem agrees that the racial issue is not a factor.
We have interracial marriages here with no vestiges of concern on the part of either side of the family. The Black Hebrew problem is, rather, ethnicity, cultural and economic problems, and a great deal of uncertainty about what their aspirations are. See Article History. Start your free trial today for unlimited access to Britannica. Learn More in these related Britannica articles:.
Israel , country in the Middle East, located at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea. It is bounded to the north by Lebanon, to the northeast by Syria, to the east and southeast by Jordan, to the southwest by Egypt,…. Polygamy , marriage to more than one spouse at a time. The most typical forms of polygamy have been polygyny, in which cowives share a husband, or polyandry, in which cohusbands share a wife. However, same-sex marriage may instigate new forms of polygamy. The term polygamy is often used as a synonym….
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Ben Ammi Ben-Israel died Saturday at the age of 75, the group said.