The name behind this leader showcases a life of dedication to one’s own religion.
He was born Ben Carter in Chicago in 1938. He served in the military after dropping out of high school. After being discharged, he took work as a metallurgist where he would be introduce to a co-worker who told him in 1961 about how African-Americans were the descendants of the Israelites.
Upon studying the Bible during the Civil Rights era, he would take the name Ben-Ammi Ben-Israel. The name is quite interesting, since it makes use of two “ben”‘s, which in Hebrew signifies “son of…” Ammi comes from the Hebrew word indicating the Rabbis who were present in Israel during the age of the Babylonians. So, that would make his first name mean “son of Ammi,” in other words, being the spiritual son of a teacher from ancient times, by becoming a teacher to his own flock. As for ben-Israel, it of course means “son of Israel,” which would completely represent his life change to becoming a part of Israel.
Along with fellow African-Americans who wish to leave America, they formed the Abeta Hebrew Israelite Cultural Center. They would have unique practices, such as polygyny and vegetarianism.
In 1966, his 350 followers migrated to Liberia from Chicago. Then they migrated to Israel a few years later, where they would settle there. Although they were initially welcomed, they would later have their statuses revoked and were threatened with deportation. Throughout this time, Ben-Ammi and Israelis would be in constant conflict.
For decades, they would counter these threats by building schools and businesses such as vegan restaurants, which they would be lauded for by 1990. He would officially become an Israeli citizen in 2013.
He passed away at the age of 75.
Like Ofuntola Adefunmi, Ben-Israel would shape African-American identity with his fellow African-American Jews in Israel. He would become one of the most important Africans in a Millennium by the BBC in 2000. This shift builds up to the point when they have adopted Israel as their new homeland.
Dr. Avishai Teicher Pikiwiki Israel. “Africans Hebrew Israelites in Dimona.” Wikimedia. May 12, 2013. CC BY 2.5. Change include zooming.