12.29.2014

African Hebrew Israelites leader Ben Ammi Ben-Israel dies at age 75

Spiritual leader of the African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem, Rahbee Ben Ammi Ben-Israel 1939-2014

The spiritual guide & leader of the African Hebrew Israelites, Rahbee Ben Ammi Ben-Israel has passed at the age of 75. If you'd like to share your thoughts regarding his life & impact, feel free to do so here. What follows is an article I wrote during his most recent visit to the U.S. in 2008.

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'A Miracle in the Desert'
40 years of commitment and sacrifice bears fruit

CHICAGO (FinalCall.com)--In a rare public appearance, the spiritual leader of the African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem, Rahbee Ben Ammi Ben-Israel was in the United States on a diplomatic mission and to speak to followers and members of the community marking the 40th anniversary of his mission.

At a private invitation only luncheon held on March 20 in the upper room at the Cosmopolitan Community Church on Chicago’s south side, the African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem were lauded for their work and sacrifice called by many “A Miracle in the Desert.”

After opening words by Ambassador Prince Asiel Ben-Israel, Rahbee Ben Ammi then spoke.

“To all of the elders, wherever you may be, whatever form you may be found, I take this opportunity on behalf of all your sons and daughters to say that we understand the price that was paid for us to be here in our generation,” said Rahbee Ben Ammi. “You may be at peace and rest in peace knowing that we will not allow your oppressors to write the last chapter of your history.”

The spiritual leader then briefly discussed the vision he received in February of 1966 informing him that it was time for the Children of Israel who remained in America—their land of captivity—to return to their place of origin. In 1967 after gaining a more thorough understanding of the vision, he inspired four hundred followers to make the exodus out of America, first settling in Liberia for two and a half years, then settling in Dimona, Israel in 1969. There they began to build a community of faith and works under his guidance and leadership.

The establishment of their society in the Negev desert was not without struggle. Initially without legal protection or cultural acceptance, the community faced intense pressure from the Israeli government refusing to recognize them as Jews according to Israel’s Law of Return. Many members faced deportation, while others were banned from participating in Israel’s national educational system or healthcare system which is available to residents and immigrants. The African Hebrew Israelites also withstood blistering media attacks on the character of the group’s leadership and members.

Despite these obstacles, they continued to build their own schools, establish their own businesses and health care systems to serve the needs of their people. In 1990, many of the obstacles related to residency were removed as they were granted temporary residency status. Permanent residency status was given by Israel’s Ministry of Interior in 2003.

Now four-decades later, they have become a part of the society with members of their community participating in the Maccabiah games—the Israeli equivalent of the Olympics—as well as serving in the Israeli Defense Force. They have also established a very popular Soul Vegetarian restaurant in Tel Aviv, and they have even established an administrative office in Dimona’s city hall.

Present at the luncheon were many members of Chicago’s Black political and spiritual leadership who spoke of their admiration for Rahbee Ben Ammi Ben-Israel’s commitment and persistence, as well as the collective work of the African Hebrew Israelite community. Many of the dignitaries recounted for the audience their memorable trips to the Holy Land to view the collective works of the community with their own eyes.

“People without visiting close up with them—it almost sounds like a fairy tale. But when you see it, you know it’s not a fairy tale,” Illinois Congressman Danny K. Davis told The Final Call. “I’ve been fortunate enough to see with my own eyes and to experience it. I know what they’ve done, and I know the difficulties they’ve had and I know the revelation they can share in terms of revealing to others throughout the world the possibility of things,” said Mr. Davis.

Senator Donnie Trotter who has been to Israel eight times said the “the peacefulness and the serenity” of the African Hebrew Israelite’s “Village of Peace” in Dimona is what stands out in his mind.

“Rahbee Ben Ammi is my spiritual father. I have seen and experienced the wonderful things that he has done over in Dimona and the model that he has created is a model that we all need to be emulating, so anytime that I can get together with this visionary is a good time for me to learn and see how we can duplicate that here in the United States,” said Sen. Trotter.

Rahbee Ben Ammi Ben-Israel in his keynote remarks covering the topic of “The State of The World and The Peace Process” said that he would be working to encourage the U.S. Congress place a ban on selling what he called “blood weapons.” This is referring to the large number of firearms supplied by the world’s largest arms dealer—The United States—being used in many conflicts across the globe. He specifically mentioned Liberia and Sierra Leone be made “no weapons” zones. His recent peacemaking efforts are an outgrowth of the mission of the Ben Ammi Institute for a New Humanity founded in 2005 as a conflict resolution center in Dimona to teach holistic non-violence and reconciliation to families, communities, faiths and nations.

Also in attendance were Carol L. Adams, Secretary of the Illinois Department of Human Services, Illinois State Senator Kwame Raoul, Mr. Charles Bowen, Publisher of N’Digo Magazine Hermene Hartman, Rev. Dr. Hycel B. Taylor, State Representative Ken Dunkin, Dr. Terry Mason, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, Former Alderman Arenda Troutman, Munir Muhammad, Business Manager of the Coalition for the Remembrance of Elijah as well as a delegation from the Nation of Islam headed by Sister Claudette Marie Muhammad.

On what is commonly referred to as Easter Sunday, March 23, Rahbee Ben Ammi spoke again to a packed house of followers and supporters at Room 43 in Chicago’s historic Bronzeville neighborhood on the subject “The Perception of Deception” Officials also announced Rahbee Ben Ammi’s latest work titled “The Resurrection—From Judgment to Post Judgment” as well as the availability of a limited edition set of five Sacred Truth Scrolls, with an accompanying booklet and CD specially narrated by Rahbee Ben Ammi.

“Its time to listen to our own prophets,” said Haki Mahdubuti the well-known author, publisher and chairman of the board of Third World Press. “It’s important that we understand that we have men and women of vision and wisdom among us,” said Mr. Mahdubuti.

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