INTRODUCTION: The Israeli government is under increasing pressure to solve one of the country's most curious and sensitive problems -- the future of the Black Hebrews, a secretive, polygamous and anti-semitic cult.
CU Road sign reading "Dimona" PULL OUT TO GV of roadway
GVs Village community of Dimona (2 shots)
GV Renovated buildings in settlement PAN TO children playing
GVs Black Hebrew families in shopping precinct (2 shots)
GVs Children playing outside apartment
GV & SV Black Hebrew woman with children sitting on wall (2 shots)
GV PAN Round damaged interior of settlement buildings before renovation
GVs Renovated apartments with play areas for children
CU INTERIOR Ben-Ami Carter speaking in English
SV man exercising on lawn PULL OUT TO GV
CU Laundry house PULL OUT TO GV of washing hanging outside and people walking in area
CU Manoch Platner answering reporter in English with scenes overlaid of Black Hebrew building workers on site
SPEECH ON FILM (TRANSCRIPT)
CARTER: "We were always on our way to Israel. We had to go according to the prophecies of God and that we had to journey through what is called the wilderness of the people to prepare ourselves to enter into Jerusalem. Our fathers when they left out of ancient Egypt did not enter straight into this land, they had to go via the wilderness to purify themselves and to cast out the ways of the decadent society from which they came. We had to do the same thing. We had to go into the wilderness to purify ourselves to prepare ourselves to go up to Jerusalem. This is the only reason that we went via Liberia. The prophecies guided us there and with that period of time and this we continue out our journey to Jerusalem to establish the prophetic kingdom of God."
REPORTER: "Are you afraid of this group?"
PLATNER: "Afraid? Well...I would say yes. It's not easy to say that you're afraid of anything after you've come as a Jew to this country, you fight for so many years, but I think it is, yes I think I must wait what will happen in another ten or twenty or fifty years, if not to me, to my children. I think all of us think it's time to live in peace, if we can."
REPORTER: DON DICKSON
Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved
Background: INTRODUCTION: The Israeli government is under increasing pressure to solve one of the country's most curious and sensitive problems -- the future of the Black Hebrews, a secretive, polygamous and anti-semitic cult. They have about 1,500 members living illegally in Israel. Led by Ben-Ami Carter, their self-styled "Messiah", the group claims to be the original biblical Israelites whose land was taken unjustly from them by the Jews. A recommendation that the Black Hebrews be granted legal status has been flatly rejected by Israeli Interior Minister Dr. Joseph Burg. Denouncing their anti-semitism he said they'd arrived in Israel with forged documents, masquerading as pilgrims.
SYNOPSIS: Most of the Black Hebrews live at Dimona, an isolated town in the Negev desert, and are mostly black Americans from the ghetto slums of Chicago. They lived in the African state of Liberia for a time before starting a move to Israel eleven years ago. Since then their numbers have grown mysteriously despite an Israeli ban on any more visas.
The anger of local Jewish residents at the continued presence of the Black Hebrews has begun to show. Hundreds have called for their deportation. After a long investigation however, a government committee decided this might cause untold harm to Israel's world reputation.
The group has publicly proclaimed that when Armageddon arrives only 144,000 of God's children will be saved -- all of them Black Hebrews.
After moving into these damaged apartments -- now pleasingly renovated -- the Black Hebrews declared themselves the Holy Land's only genuine inheritors. And they called the Israelis white imposters from Europe.
Black Hebrew leader Ben-Ami Carter was asked by a Visnews reporter why his group had chosen to leave Liberia and settle in Israel:
Mr. Carter, who has three wives and 15 children, has made it clear he has no intention of allowing his followers to convert to Judaism.
A local Israeli action group in Dimona has been campaigning against the Black Hebrews. The chairman, Mr. Hanock Platner, was asked about the problem: