RAMALLAH, September 13 (JMCC) - Thousands of African - Americans living in a desert village in Southern Israel
and claiming to be a lost tribe of the country face an uncertain future. After a forty-year battle, the government has agreed to allow them to seek citizenship, however so far, only five adults and 16 children have been accepted.
The remainder are classed as permanent residents, and are forbidden, much the same as Arab Israelis are, to build permanent structures on the land they rent from the government. Sheets of tarpaulin cover their homes, giving a sense of impermanence.Read
Still, the Black Hebrews, as they are known here, are used to challenge. In 1984, Dov Shilansky, the then speaker of the Israeli Knesset, called the community of peace-loving, then-polygamous vegans “worse than the PLO”. “In a very short time, the Black Hebrews won’t be here anymore,” he warned. Two years later, Israeli Defence Forces surrounded their village, hoping to scare them into leaving ?“We’ve never had weapons and that day [the soldiers] were armed to the hilt,” Ahmadiel Ben Yehuda, a spokesman for the community, says. “There were sharpshooters all around us.”
Frightened, but determined to stay in Israel – which they claim is their ancestral homeland – the immigrants warned that if the soldiers did not withdraw, they would march to Jerusalem, nearly 100km away. “That was the turning point,” says Mr Ben Yehuda. “All this media descended on Dimona and everyone realised ‘why all this use of force.’” More than 20 years have passed since that day, which the Black Hebrews refer to as The Day of the Show of Strength, and while they no longer face harassment from the army, their relationship with the government has remained tense.
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