Initially, the Israeli government and community feared a mass migration of African Americans into Israel. This was the desire of the Hebrew Israelites, but it failed. The community did not grow much since its inception. This failure assuaged native Israelis’ fears and eased tensions around the issue. In 2003, the entire community received permanent resident status. They were also provided with the opportunity to eventually become citizens if they so choose.
Today’s Hebrew Israelite community in Israel is more developed and less afflicted than before the 1990 agreement. Supported by the government, they’ve expanded their physical community. A specialized school teaches young Hebrew Israelites the Hebrew language, typical school subjects, and Hebrew Israelite spiritual teachings. Black Hebrew youth serve in the Israel Defense Forces and study Israeli civics.
The community itself houses a clinic, organic farm (they’re vegan!), and communal kitchen. Outside of the community grounds, they own and operate restaurants throughout Israel.
Sabbath and Holy Days
The Hebrew Israelites, like some Christians and Jews, observe a day of full rest every week. They also celebrate Passover, Yom Kippur, Shavuout, Succoth (Sukkot), and the Memorial Blowing of the Trumpets (Feast of Trumpets).
“Edenic” Diet and Clothing
The Black Hebrews do not consume animal products or by-products, as per their interpretation of Genesis 1:29 —
“Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.”“
This diet is called “Edenic” in reference to the Garden of Eden. Veganism is the Black Hebrews’ reclamation of bodily health after the trauma of inner city American life.
Their website cites “Leviticus 12:12” as a basis for wearing only natural fibers.
Black Hebrew clothing styles are a unique blend of West African aesthetics with Biblical tradition. For example, Black Hebrew men wear the tsitsit and kippot as per Jewish tradition.
As per Leviticus 12:3, Hebrew Israelites tradition dictates that boys be circumcised 8 days after birth.
Female purification laws
The Black Hebrews use Leviticus 12:2-5 to explain their adherence to biblical purification laws:
12 The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Give the following instructions to the people of Israel.
If a woman becomes pregnant and gives birth to a son, she will be ceremonially unclean for seven days, just as she is unclean during her menstrual period.
After waiting thirty-three days, she will be purified from the bleeding of childbirth. During this time of purification, she must not touch anything that is set apart as holy. And she must not enter the sanctuary until her time of purification is over.
If a woman gives birth to a daughter, she will be ceremonially unclean for two weeks, just as she is unclean during her menstrual period. After waiting sixty-six days, she will be purified from the bleeding of childbirth.
Remembering their Ancestors
This custom is unique to the Hebrew Israelite community. Every year they celebrate the 1967 migration of their forefathers from America. The festivities include sports, entertainment, and outdoor activities.
Day of the Show of Strength
This celebration marks April 17, 1986, the day that Black Hebrews were met with 200 heavily armed Israeli border police officers in their Dimona village.
The Black Hebrews were planning a march on Jerusalem in response to Israel’s detainment and planned deportation of 50 community members. Law enforcement was sent to the village to obstruct this protest.