Life Inside The Black Hebrew Israelites Of Jerusalem [Part II Of II]
By Ester Alegria in News on Aug 3, 2014 7:30PM
Children in Dimona, Israel—date unknown (Photo Credit: Ester Alegria)
Read part one here.
My mother had given me so much information on her time spent in Dimona with the Black Hebrew Israelites. I felt like it was entirely too much to cover online or even during our 3-hour long conversation. This was a multi-faceted subject. So many people are involved, and there were so many questions left unasked, but there was one aspect of her time that was especially close to my heart.
I was curious about the death of her husband and perhaps how it affected my brother Enoch more recently, during his last days alive. So, I asked for the full back story:
“When my husband died, he was living in Jericho. I’d separated from him because he beat me viciously at the direction of Ben Carter. I’d previously told Ben Carter and Asiel they were running a ridiculous mess. They didn’t like the fact that a woman had been so outspoken, and was speaking against them. I have a picture of my face swollen, eyes half closed and black. I was unrecognizable.
After he beat me unconscious, he left Dimona. Soon after, he was found with a hatchet wound in his forehead. Supposedly, five men jumped him in the park. It was rumored that he put sugar in someone’s tank, but I don’t know what really happened. When I went to claim the body, [I found that] another woman had already done so. He’d gotten another wife after all, but I was the wife with the appropriate documents.
Before Yob’s death, Ben Carter had someone take Enoch, my small baby, away, and one of his wives took care of him for a few days. They were trying to help patch things up between us, but I was too opinionated for them. Kind of like Sally Field in Not Without My Daughter; I had to escape.
That night, we were in bed, and I got the idea to scream as though I saw something supernatural in the room. “Ahh! What’s that black thing over there?” Yob was frightened, and riddled with guilt. The next day, he went to work, and I packed a bag for myself and my baby. I grabbed our passports, and snuck away to the bus stop. While on the bus, onlookers gasped loudly at my face. I arrived in Beersheva at my mother’s house.
My siblings couldn't recognize me. When my mother found out what happened, she went with my dad and brothers to Dimona and cursed at everyone she saw. Before leaving, I grabbed the scalpel from my biology kit, my mother—a nurse had a syringe filled with air that she’d stick Yob with to protect herself.
Back then, Ben Ammi had 12 Princes. They were all crowded around in my small apartment. One of the men held my mother’s arm too tightly, hurting her. So I grabbed his shirt, twisting it, causing it to choke his neck, I was ready to cut him if I had to. I thought about my beaten face, and my child. I said, “Let her go now, or you’re gonna get the first blow.” He looked at me with fear in his eyes, and released my mother. My older brother, one of the 12 Princes yelled, “Don’t worry about Yob, the ground is gonna open up and swallow him whole.” Soon we gathered my things, and left.
As we were leaving, I told my husband, “You’re gonna realize that me and this baby are the only ones here who mean you any good.” That was the last time I saw him alive.
I remember one speech in Chicago, where Ben Carter said the white man’s goal is to divide and conquer. But he divided my family and kept us apart. My father was found dead in the back of a truck. And my brother died as well. They said he had a heart attack, but I never trusted that. Things were all wrong over there. I’ve never had a white person treat me the way I was treated with the Black Hebrews leaders in Dimona. They had a lot of hatred for white men and problems much more serious than racism.
I ended up getting away from the Black Hebrews, and I never went back. It turns out I was pregnant with a little girl, and gave birth in Beersheva where my mother lived. I soon came back to Chicago, and started a new life. A life of freedom.
Prince Asiel (Photo credit: Ester Alegria)
As a writer, I try to stay away from cliché phrases as much as possible, but it’s so fitting here to say that everything happens for a reason. The relationships built, children born, strengths formed and passed on from my mom’s time in this cult, have helped shape the woman I am today. And I am grateful for everything she has endured and survived so that I am able to tell you this story. If there was one important thing my mother has taught me, it was to learn from the mistakes of others--something I tell my own daughter very often.
"If you’re thinking about joining a religion, study it for yourself. Ask God who he is, and be sincere,” my mom ends.
I don’t agree with everything my mother says, but I give her full credit for my most useful attribute, my resilience. She survived a murder plot, deep within a cult, in the Middle East. Like Moses, truly a stranger in a strange land. As for Prince Asiel, it seems like karma is doing a great job at taking care of him. He and a co-defendant plead guilty for violating the U.S. FISA law, and soliciting $3.4 million dollars from Zimbabwe to set up meetings to have sanctions lifted.
Ben Ammi, or Abba HaGadol (The Great Father) as he is sometimes called by his followers, continues to lead in Dimona. The Hebrew Israelites are recognized as a religion to most who know of them, with recruiters in cities like Chicago, D.C., and Atlanta. There’s even a popular vegan restaurant run by the group, East on 75th St., called Soul Vegetarian East. But perhaps only insiders know real truth. There are more stories to tell. This strange and vindictive cult with origins on Chicago’s South Side will forever cast a shadow on the city’s history, leaving the lives of hundreds changed forever.
Read part one here.