Ben Ammi Ben-Israel (pictured), the spiritual leader of the African Hebrew Israelite Nation of Jerusalem, a polygamous vegan movement that believes that black Americans are descendants of ancient biblical tribes, died suddenly on Saturday at age 75, according to the International Business Times.
Ben-Israel was born Ben Carter was raised in Chicago, Illinois. In his early twenties, Ben-Israel was introduced by a co-worker to the ideology that blacks in this country are descendants of biblical Israelites. In 1963, he thought of a way to unify the scattered Black Hebrew Israelite groups throughout Chicago by founding the A-Beta Hebrew Israel Cultural Center.
Three years later, Ben-Israel, who received his name from a rabbi of the Congregation of Ethiopian Hebrews, claimed the archangel Gabriel came to him in a vision with instructions to make an exodus back to the promised land. In 1967, Ben-Israel and about 400 other congregants first traveled to Liberia to live in the wilderness as they found their way back to the”promised land.”
In 1969, Ben-Israel and his tribe (now dwindled down to about 139 followers), eventually made it to Israel but the country’s authorities mandated that they live in the Israeli dessert city of Dimona. As they lived their lives sporting colorful robes made only of natural fibers, bearing biblical names and practicing polygamy, they were finally granted permanent Israeli residency in 2003 but with stipulations. The Israeli authorities wanted the group to dismantle their system of polygamy and they did but those families already set in the lifestyle were allowed to continue.
Even though the African Hebrew Israelites are not recognized by the Israeli rabbinic establishment as Jews, their healthy lifestyle and organic agriculture have attracted global visitors to their area. The movement’s true credo of healthy living has been admired, and practices such as exercising three times a week, adopting no-salt days and sugarless weeks, and incorporating lots of soy and vegan foodstuff into their diets is a blueprint that many could look to copy.
The movement has also made numerous societal contributions that are extremely noteworthy such as drilling water wells in remote Ghanaian villages, drilling more than 180 water wells for schools and villages in Kenya and constructing a holistic health complex in Benin, West Africa that provided jobs for the locals.
Ben-Israel, who back in 2000 was named “One of the Most Influential Africans of the Last Millennium” by BBC’s “Focus on Africa” magazine leaves behind four wives and over 20 children. There are over 3,000 members living in Israel today.
The cause of Ben-Israel’s death is undisclosed at this time.