Wednesday, February 4, 2009
First Black Hebrew gets Israeli citizenship
Forty years after arriving in Israel as self-identified descendants of Tribe of Judah, first member of Israelite community gets letter from Interior Ministry approving request for citizenship. Ministry says more approvals to follow
"Hallelujah, Hallelujah," members of Dimona's Black Hebrew Israelite community sang out after one of them received a notification that he was eligible for Israeli citizenship.
The first of the Black Hebrews arrived in Israel from the United States and Liberia in December 1969, claiming to be the descendants of the Tribe of Judah.
Upon their arrival the Hebrews settled in the southern communities of Dimona, Mitzpe Ramon and Arad, and have struggled extensively in an attempt to gain recognition from the State of Israel.
Only in August 2003 did the Black Hebrew Israelites get the news they were waiting for when then- Interior Minister, Avraham Poraz granted them the status of permanent residents.
In 2004 members of the community, both men and woman, for the first time joined the Israel Defense Force and began fulfilling their civil duties.
On Monday, 62-year-old Elyakim Ben-Israel made his way to the post office to collect a letter sent by registered mail.
When he opened the letter, Ben-Israel was delighted to find a summons from the Interior Ministry inviting him to go pledge allegiance to the State of Israel and its laws.
"I jumped for joy and ran to the community and we all laughed and cried," Ben-Israel said on Monday.
Ben-Israel said he was the first of the community to renounce his American citizenship at the instructions of the community's leader Ben Ammi Ben-Israel, and filed for Israeli citizenship many years ago.
The Interior Ministry said on Monday that more members of the Black Hebrew community can expect to receive citizenship approval letters.
Director-General of the Interior Ministry Arieh Bar said granting members of the community the promised citizenship was a bold decision on the part of Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit.