By Avida Landau DIMONA, Israel (Reuters) – Four decades after they heard what they call an angel’s order to leave the United States and move to Israel, a vegan community popularly known as “the Black Hebrews” is about to get its own piece of the Holy Land.
Identifying themselves as African Hebrew Israelites, about 300 African-Americans arrived in 1969 in the sleepy desert town of Dimona, claiming to be descendants of the ancient Israelites and a right to settle in the Jewish state. Despite observing Jewish holidays and practices, they were never recognized as Jews by Israeli authorities, but were allowed to remain. Their legal status has been resolved, and the government granted them permanent Israeli residency.
But fire services warned their homes in the small government-owned compound — which they call the “Village of Peace” — may be a fire hazard. So Dimona Mayor Meir Cohen and the government decided to give the community of about 3,000 Hebrews their own tract of land in the town. On their new property, they hope not only to construct more comfortable dwellings, but also to build tourist attractions such as a wellness resort, health treatment clinics and restaurants, all reflecting the community’s lifestyle.
“We are really excited. It gives us a chance to further expand on the things we have begun to do in this country and I think also to share those benefits on a more stable foundation with the wider community,” said Prince Immanuel Ben-Yehuda, a white cloth-dressed spiritual leader of the community.
Members of the community, where English is the spoken language and the children wear colorful African-style robes and white headcovers, believe a completely vegan diet of locally grown fruits and vegetables, along with regular exercise and holistic health treatments, are keys to longevity and health.