Ben Ammi Ben-Israel
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|Ben Ammi Ben-Israel|
October 12, 1939
|Died||December 27, 2014
Be'er Sheva, Israel
|Known for||Founder and spiritual leader of the African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem|
|Subgroups and organizations|
Ben Ammi Ben-Israel was born Ben Carter on October 12, 1939, in Chicago, Illinois. After dropping out of high school, Carter served three years in the United States Army, where he earned an equivalency degree.
After Carter was discharged from the Army, he worked as a metallurgist at Chicago's Howard Foundry. In 1961, a co-worker introduced him to the idea that African Americans are descendants of the Biblical Israelites. Carter began to attend meetings of black Israelite groups, and was given a Hebrew name, Ben Ammi Ben-Israel, by Rabbi Reuben of the Congregation of Ethopian Hebrews.
According to the Hebrew Israelite community, in 1966, Ben Ammi received a vision from the angel Gabriel, who told him to lead African-Americans to Israel. In the vision, he claimed he was instructed to: "Lead the children of Israel among African Americans to the promised land, and establish the long-awaited Kingdom of God." In any case, Ben Ammi was one of four members of the Abeta Hebrew Israel Cultural Center to be chosen to travel to Liberia to explore the possibility of settlement there.
In July 1967, a number of Abeta families began to arrive in Liberia, settling in spartan conditions on land purchased by an African American citizen of Liberia on behalf of the community. According to one account, Ben Ammi began his rise to leadership within the group around Passover in 1968. In accordance with their belief that they were the descendants of ancient Israelites, community members planned to sacrifice an lamb or kid as part of the observance of the holiday. When the goat acquired for the occasion was found accidentally strangled, and therefore ritually impure to be used as a sacrifice, Ben Ammi made a speech declaring that the faith and observance of the Black Hebrews was the true sacrifice that God desired.
The Abeta settlers were not welcomed by the Liberian government, and suffered from economic and social difficulties. Many of them died from diseases. In 1969, Ben Ammi visited Israel to once again explore the possibility the group's relocation.
Taking advantage of the ambiguous attitudes of Israeli authorities, the community was able to immigrate to Israel. According to Ben Ami, tickets were purchased for their upcoming journey with the proceeds from the sale of two ice cream shops that had been established for the group's benefit in Monrovia--as well as some "divine intelligence." In 1970, 48 families immigrated to Israel, claiming their right to stay there under Israel's Law of Return. Ben Ammi and more of his followers arrived in the ensuing months, settling in the Negev city of Dimona. Others settled in Arad and Mitzpe Ramon The community was eventually given permanent residency in 1990, and then a path to citizenship in 2003. Ben Ammi served as the community's spiritual and political leader during this time, authoring a number of books.
Ben Ammi died in a hospital in Be'er Sheva, Israel on December 27, 2014. At the time of his death, Ben Ammi had four wives—Tikvah, Yoninah, Baht Zion and Baht Ammi—as well as 25 children, 45 grandchildren, and 15 great-grandchildren.
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Relationship with Jews and Judaism
Ben Ammi claimed that he and the Black Hebrews from the original Liberian settlement were not Jews but Hebrews, the true descendants of the ancient Israelites. Ben Ammi originally believed that Moses and Abraham were black, and that the Black Hebrews were the only "true" inheritors of Israel.
While rejecting the modern religious forms of both Judaism and Christianity, he maintained the divine inspiration of the Tanakh, and perceived Yeshua as one of an ongoing line of 'messiahs' sent by God to keep the people of Israel in the ways of righteousness. The core of the group's lifestyle is the Tanakh, Ben Ammi claimed that "the Law and the Prophets...are the light; they are the essence of what is required to set man on the path and show him the way back to his Maker." However the group reject the traditions of Rabbinic Judaism including the Talmud as inauthentic to Hebrew religion.
Ben Ammi claimed that Africans are the victims of "a cruel plot to control us, an international religious plot that came about as a result of Blacks disobeying the law and commandments of God." In the attempt to overcome the history of slavery and the bondage in America, Ammi argues that it is essential to "reexamine and redefine all things...we must question every facet of existence under Euro-gentile dominion." The ability to name and classify the word and social concepts Ammi calls "The Power to Define", which in the wrong hands is "one of the greatest weapons that can be used to control men and nations," but is the key to salvation from past oppression.
Ben Ammi translated his perspective of Africa's problems being "spiritual problems" into an expansive set of socio-political, economic, agricultural and health-related positions. He emphasized the need for African Leaders to "learn from their history and the African Cultural Value System", in order to combat the "perception engineering" which is conducted by many Western institutions.
During a 2002 interview with the Redding News Review, Ben Ammi expressed confidence in his community's ability to continue on in the case of his departure. When asked specifically "What are the provisions within the community, to take care of the community, should something happen to you?" he responded "It is the word that I speak, the truth that I speak, that is deeply embedded in their souls...I am flesh, blood, and spirit - but it is the spirit I possess; the spirit the ancient prophets possess, that is of such significance to the redemption of our people." Defining himself to simply be a "representative" of this Holy Spirit, Ben Ammi carefully distinguished the community which he has presided over since the late 1960s from a "sect" or "cult" that is at risk of social or political disintegration as a result of his absence, citing the long-term implications of Daniel 2:44 for biblical reference 
Ben-Israel was revered as a messianic figure in the community, his picture adorning at least one wall in every apartment. In an interview, Ben Ammi described his status as a prophet and spiritual leader:
- "My anointing did not come until after we had arrived in Israel. The Father sent a prophet to anoint me and to let me know the further off or great portion of my mission...At the time he anointed me...I received the name Nasi Hashalom [The Prince of Peace]...Later on this same prophet came again to tell me according to the word of God that at a later date someone would be sent to anoint me to sit on the throne of David in the spirit and to fulfill the prophecies of he that was to sit on the throne of David. The words of a true prophet, they certainly came to pass, and it took place just as he said. Afterwards, from Nasi Hashalom my name was changed to Rabbey and Adoni Rabbey [My Lord and Master]." 
Awards and recognition
In March 2010, Ben Ammi received a Lifetime Achievement Award in Ghana, West Africa. This award is given out by the Ghanaian Country Awards Council. At the ceremony, the Country Director of CACG (Country Awards Council Ghana) stated that Ben Ammi "has helped bridged the gap between spirituality and development like no other leader before in global history, in the process creating new and progressive options for successfully building communities and projects based on enduring righteous, African cultural principles."
With these achievements, BBC’s “Focus on Africa” magazine in the year 2000 named him the “One of the Most Influential Africans of the Last Millennium”.
- African-American – Jewish relations#Blacks as the chosen people
- Black Hebrew Israelites
- Groups claiming affiliation with Israelites
- Chang, Kenneth (2014-12-31). "Ben Ammi Ben-Israel Dies at 75: Led Black Americans in Migration to Israel". The New York Times. Retrieved 2015-01-02.
- Eugene V. Gallagher; W. Michael Ashcraft (1 October 2006). Introduction to New and Alternative Religions in America [Five Volumes]. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 4. ISBN 978-0-313-05078-7. Retrieved 10 January 2013.
- "Ben Ammi". africanhebrewisraelitesofjerusalem.com (African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem). 2014-12-28. Retrieved 2015-01-02.
- Yvonne Patricia Chireau; Nathaniel Deutsch (2000). Black Zion: African American Religious Encounters with Judaism. Oxford University Press. pp. 66–. ISBN 978-0-19-511257-3.
- Anthony B. Pinn (2009). African American Religious Cultures. ABC-CLIO. p. 112. ISBN 978-1-57607-470-1.
- Tarryn Crossman (2011). 3 days in Dimona: African Hebrew Israelites (Film). South Africa Broadcasting Corporation.
- "GOOD EVENING GHANA-EXCLUSIVE WITH H.E. BEN AMMI BEN ISRAEL". YouTube. Retrieved 29 December 2014.
- "Country Awards Council Ghana has Honoured H. E. Dr Ben Ammi ---With Lifetime Achievements Award in Accra.". modernghana.com. Retrieved 29 December 2014.
- Redding Jr., Robert "Rob" (2015-01-01). "Ben Ammi Ben-Israel discusses his death, future". Redding News Review. Retrieved 2015-01-02.
- "Message to our Family & Friends". africanhebrewisraelitesofjerusalem.com (African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem). 2014-12-28. Retrieved 2015-01-02.
- "Country Awards Council Ghana has Honoured H. E. Dr Ben Ammi ---With Lifetime Achievements Award in Accra". modernghana.com. March 16, 2010. Retrieved January 10, 2013.
- Yvonne Patricia Chireau; Nathaniel Deutsch (2000). Black Zion: African American Religious Encounters with Judaism. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-511258-0. Retrieved 10 January 2013.
- John L. Jackson, Jr. (2013). Thin Description: Ethnography and the African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem. Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-04966-6. Retrieved 1 January 2015.
- Ben Ammi
- Statement issued by the Israeli Foreign Ministry (on 2006/09/29) on the Community that Ben Ammi is leading