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Whitney in Israel

Path: Spirituality and Money Black Biblical Diasporan Whitney Houson in Israel


Refering to the visit of Whitney Houson and her Husband Bobby Brown to the African Hebrew Israelites Community in Israel/Dimona (May 27, 2003)

Attachment: Whitney responses.doc

5 June 2003

The Voice Newspaper
Letter to the Editor:

In Danielle Weekes' story on the recent Bobby Brown/Whitney Houston visit to Israel ("My Love is Your Cult" - 2 June 2003), a recent UK visitor to the African Hebrew Israelites' "Village of Peace" in Dimona refers to the experience as "amazing" and speaks of a place where there are "no locks on the doors"!

With social dysfunction, disease, crime and violence rampant in the African community worldwide, has the Voice missed the real story here?! It seems to us that if Weekes spent as much time in getting the facts straight as in going "undercover," the Truth would have been better served.

Polygamy, a social institution practiced in over 3/4ths of the world, is listed alongside the crimes, "murder" and "fraud" in her indictment and she expresses being "astounded" at hearing of the idea. One must wonder, if she is as equally astounded by the increasing prevalence of same-sex marriages and other aberrations in a society where "Ozzie and Harriet" has given way to Ozzie Osbourne and "My Three Sons" has been replaced by "My Two Dads"?!

Polygyny by consent, a more accurate way to describe the social order biblically prescribed (or "Divine Marriage" as we prefer), is increasingly being suggested as an alternative to the sad state of most families today ("We Want for Our Sisters What We Want for Ourselves" by Dr. Patricia Dixon of Georgia State University and "Man Sharing" by Dr. Audrey Chapman of Howard University. The former visited the community for several weeks to conduct research for her book). It may be a surprise, but polygyny did not originate with us. Beyond the borders of European/American lands - specifically African, Asian and Muslim societies - polygyny is the norm. Nowhere in the Bible from Genesis to Malachi, has the practice of polygyny been condemned. In fact, the 12 tribes of Israel were born of 4 women and the eternal king of Israel himself, David, had 8 wives. It is evident that the mis-education of African people relative to their own culture is still prevalent.

At any rate, we are sorry that the reporter hiccupped at the polygyny issue, for the African Hebrew Israelites are about much more than multiple wives and procreation. Is it possible that an emotional and/or cultural bias compromised her professionalism and sense of objectivity? A host of sources would suggest that is the case:

- Israel Gerber, a U.S. Jewish sociologist, in "The Heritage Seekers" (1977) writes: "In the brief span of time the Black Hebrews have been in Israel, they have taken a leap across centuries of social evolution."

- CBS's "America Tonight" (1994): "(They) are some of the best and brightest Black Americans who gave up their families and their country."

- The U.S. Congressional Human Rights Caucus in 1994 hosted Ben Ammi on Capitol Hill and honored the fruit of his vision as "A Miracle in the Desert," proclaiming them "an integral part of the mosaic which is modern-day Israel"; "making outstanding contributions"; "a story of faith, perseverance and a shining example".

- The 1994 Israeli Hebrew-language magazine "Teva Had'vareem" ("The Nature of Things") entitled their 40-page color spread on the community "An Island of Sanity" (Enough said!)

- James Landing, in "Black Judaism: The Story of an American Movement" (2002): "(T)he successful outcome of the Hebrew Israelite migration to Israel must rank as one of the most important black emigrationist movements since the successful founding of Liberia in 1822. The story of the Hebrew Israelites is the type that lends itself to legends."

- Martina Berg, social anthropologist at the University of Austria, in her recent (2003) doctoral thesis ("Dynamic Diaspora Dimensions of the Community of the African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem") says: "(T)he African Hebrew Israelites have succeeded in re-creating a holistic lifestyle; intended to serve as a model for further development all over Africa/Eden". This observation was based upon several years of interviews and interaction here in Israel and our operations in Ghana (one of many across Africa, the US and the Caribbean).

As for plans at any time for a mass suicide, rest assured that living is our main priority, as evidenced by our vegan (strict vegetarian) diet, vigorous exercise program and abstention from smoking and hard alcohol. (By the way, the Jonestown incident was later documented not to have been a suicide.) In establishing a working model for social development, we are expressing our love of God and a sincere concern for the entire Creation and human family (the overwhelming majority of whom are in as much need, though much lesser known, than Bobby and Whitney).

True, a pilgrimage to Dimona has inspired many to become a "different person". We've changed our names, diets and garments. But more importantly, we've changed our thinking, behavior and activities. We have built and maintain a lifestyle which reflects the sanctity and order of the God of Creation, who in the Hebrew language is indeed referred to as "Yah" (as in Hallelu-Yah). Who but the spiritually blind cannot see that the world needs a new and different direction? In a sin-sick world it would seem that a "brainwashing" of this type is just what the doctor ordered!

As for a "darker side" and "shadowy past" that is ominously referred to, don't omit the darker shadows of the Euro-American political apparatus. Only the very naïve are unaware that the U.S. government waged war on progressive African American leaders and their organizations from the 1920s through the present day via a range of officially-sanctioned programs (Marcus Garvey's engineered deportation, the McCarren Act, COINTELPRO, et al). The late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was labeled a "womanizer," a "Communist" and a "messiah" who, on the eve of his assassination envisioned a deliverance of African Americans to the "Promised Land". This reality is why we are certain that your misleading references to our community are an attempt (conscious or unconscious) to discredit us. What else would motivate a reporter to "infiltrate" a group that after nearly a decade in the UK attracts just "15-20" members to its meeting?! There's got to be an ulterior motive.

While assuming that your readers are not so politically naïve or uninformed to believe all that has been reported, we will nevertheless address some of the deceptions perpetrated against us here:

- There is absolutely no connection between the African Hebrew Israelites at Jerusalem and the alleged activities, and subsequent conviction, of Yahweh Ben Yahweh and his followers in Miami. The Pope is not charged in connection with any Catholic who commits a crime, nor political organizations smeared by the misdeed of some individual carrying the same apparent beliefs. Such campaigns to defame are superficial in nature, but sinister in reality when you realize that the two groups mentioned in your article have distinctively different leaders and locations, and have never been linked, before.

- No child in the community has ever died connected in any way to a whipping. We do, however, maintain that discipline (not to be confused with child abuse) is an essential part of parental authority and responsibility.

- Charges of criminal activity against community leaders were dismissed as part of the longest-running trial in Washington, DC history. Both Israeli and U.S. law enforcement agencies are since on record to attest to the crime-free record of the community.

- In our very early days of transitioning to the vegan diet, we experienced some nutritional problems. Those have long been solved. In fact, a team of doctors from Vanderbilt University and Meharry Medical School in Nashville, Tennessee conducted a series of blood pressure and cholesterol tests on all of our adults and found them to be "off the charts low" in comparison to the database for African Americans. (Perhaps you are not apprised as to the current abysmal health condition of the African world.) These and other types of critical studies are welcome.

- Discontents and dropouts over the years are to be expected, even as we witnessed recently in the Blair administration. As our community is located a mere 2 minute walk from the police station, you may rest assured that no members of the community have need to "escape". Besides, individuals who don't desire to be here become counterproductive to the whole, and are more than welcome to leave. As such, ours is truly a "coalition of the willing".

Your reporter should update her information as "sect" and "cult" references to our community have gone the route of the proverbial dinosaur. Truthfully, relations between us and the Israeli government and populace have never been better.

But back to the real story. Just why did Bobby and Whitney journey to Israel? They are hardly the only "bright lights" of the entertainment industry who have made their way to Dimona. Others include Stevie Wonder, Barry White, Mutabaruka, Tony Rebel, Ray Charles, the Neville Brothers, William Marshall, the Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre, Kim Weston, Billy Cobham and many more. (And we won't begin to list the political luminaries who have made the pilgrimage.) In fact, actresses Beverly Todd and Phyllis Yvonne Stickney are in Dimona currently. What is it that they have come to see, feel or witness?

The Holy Land is the logical destination for physical healing and spiritual rejuvenation. The connection of the African world to Israel and the Bible is an historic, cultural and spiritual one; and well documented. In this light, Jericho, Jerusalem and the Jordan River - places our ancestors sang about in the old spirituals - take on a new meaning.

Given the reigning social chaos, confusion and hopelessness, why wouldn't Bobby, Whitney or anyone else want to visit a place where in 36 years, there have been no murders, rapes, robberies, deaths from cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, child abuse and the like?! Such a place is Dimona. If only a fraction of the successes were true, there are millions waiting to hear the formula for that success. That's the real story; and it's no secret! So you can save yourself the trouble of having to go "undercover" when you come!

Ahmadiel Ben Yehuda
Office of Information
Dimona, ISRAEL




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