Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Black Hebrews of Mitzpe Ramon do it

That is, celebrate Purim. At least they dress up for it.

When I was in school in Chicago in the '60s and '70s, a group of Chicago blacks came to prominence from the Black Hebrew Israelites. They believed that the true Jews were black and that they were descended from the ancient Israelites. They were one of many kind of scary black groups in Chicago at the time. I remember driving past their building on Chicago's South Side. It had stained glass windows with menorahs and Stars of David. Of course, the Black Hebrews were far from the only black religious group active in Chicago. Most notoriously there was the Nation of Islam that claimed Muhammed Ali and Malcolm X as members. In recent times, Louis Farrakhan, the current leader of the NOI, has gained scandalous notoriety through his anti-semitic pronouncements.

In any case, some of the Black Hebrews, who are black but not Jewish, decided to decamp from Chicago and made their way to Libya, where they were not welcomed with open arms. They later came to Israel and settled in the Negev in Dimona, the site of Israel's nuclear reactor. Some eventually moved farther south to Mitzpe Ramon. I don't know how many Black Hebrews live in Mitzpe Ramon now, but one of our upstairs neighbors is a member of the group. I see them around town all the time. They speak Hebrew fluently, and always greet you with a "shalom" or "shabbat shalom".

It is amazing to me that their English is still accented with the cadences of South Side Chicago. While sitting in the CafeNeto photographing the face painting just before Purim, the gentleman below came in doing a rap song about Mitzpe Ramon. He said he was dressed as Bat Dog for Purim.

A Black Hebrew dressed as "Bat Dog" for Purim

He was performing his Mitzpe Ramon rap, which he interrupted to give me this account of his costume.

                        "Bat Dog"

Then he went back to rapping...

                 "Bat Dog" rapping in the CafeNeto


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