African Americans in Israel
Total population
Regions with significant populations
Tel Aviv, Dimona, Jerusalem, Ein Shemer, Haifa, Ariel, Eilat
English, Hebrew
Judaism, Black Israelism, Christianity.
Related ethnic groups
African Americans

African Americans in Israel number at least 25,000,[1] comprise several separate groups, including the groups of African American Jews who have immigrated from the United States to Israel making aliyah, non-Jewish African Americans who have immigrated to Israel for personal or business reasons, pro-athletes who formerly played in the major leagues in the United States before playing in Israel on local basketball and other sports teams, as well as foreign students studying in Israeli universities, businessmen, merchants, and guest workers, along with Israeli citizens of African American ancestry. African Americans have served in the Israel Defence Force,[2][3] and have largely been accepted and into Israeli society, and have represented Israel in numerous international forums such as the Olympic Games, and the Eurovision Song Contest. African American-Israelis have had a major cultural impact in Israel, particular in the arts and culture, music and sports.[4] In addition, there as a large community of Black Hebrew Israelites numbering at least 5,000 people, who originally immigrated to Israel from Chicago in the 1960s, and live mostly in the southern Israeli town of Dimona.[3]

African American Israelis

African American-Israeli basketball player Shawn Dawson, son of American-born Israeli Joe Dawson and his Yemenite Jewish wife
African American-Israeli sprinter Donald Sanford represented Israel at the 2016 Olympics.

There are a large number of African American Israelis including the American-born Israeli basketball player Joe Dawson and his Israeli-born son Shawn Dawson who live in Eilat, and American-born Israeli Olympic athlete. Donald Sanford who lives in Ein Shemer with his Ashkenazi-Israeli wife.[5]

African American Jews

There are a number of African American Jews who have made aliyah to Israel. All African American Jews are eligible for Israeli citizenship, like all other Jews, according to the Israeli law of return. They span the full range of denominations of Judaism including Reform, Conservative, Orthodox and various streams of Haredi Judaism. Notable African American Jews who moved to Israel include Nissim Black, Amar'e Stoudmire, and others.[6]

African American athletes in Israel

Jamie Arnold, a retired African American-Israeli basketball player with dual citizenship who played for the Israeli national basketball team

A number of African American pro athletes have moved to Israel to play for local Israeli sports teams. The majority of these athletes are basketball players, and some have decided to stay in Israel permanently following their time in the Israeli national basketball league.[7]

Black Hebrew Israelite community in Israel

Main article: Black Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem

The African Hebrew Israelite Nation of Jerusalem (also known as the Black Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem, the Black Hebrew Israelites, or simply the Black Hebrews or Black Israelites) is a spiritual group of African Americans in Israel, now mainly based in Dimona, Israel, whose members believe they are descended from the Twelve Tribes of Israel. The community now numbers around 5,000.[8] They came from a group of African Americans, many from Chicago, Illinois, who migrated to Israel in the late 1960s.

The group was founded in Chicago by a former steel worker named Ben Carter (1939–2014, also known as Ben Ammi Ben-Israel). In his early twenties Carter was given the name Ben Ammi by Rabbi Reuben of the Chicago Congregation of Ethiopian Hebrews.[9] Ben Ammi was working in an airline factory when he first discovered the Black Hebrew movement and its philosophy.[10] According to Ben Ammi, in 1966, at the age of 27, he had a vision in which the Archangel Gabriel[11] called him to take his people, African Americans, back to the Holy Land of Israel.[12]

Initially, the African Hebrew Israelites asserted that they were the only rightful inheritors of the land of Israel.[13][14] They refused to convert to Judaism and asserted that most Israeli Jews were not descendants of the ancient Israelites.[15] By the late 1980s, the group tempered their beliefs. They came to see Israel as a nation of many cultures, races, and religions.[13]

Notable African-American Israelis

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African American-Israeli sprinter Donald Sanford representing Israel
Israeli basketball player Shawn Dawson
D'or Fischer, an African American-Israeli professional basketball player with dual citizenship who has represented Israel on their national team

See also


  1. ^ a b Cohen, Shaul. "African Americans in Israel (in Hebrew)": 138. ((cite journal)): Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  2. ^ Mandela, Barack. "African American-Israeli Hero in the Israel Defense Forces". The Times of Israel. Retrieved 13 September 2021.
  3. ^ a b Esensten, Andrew (2019). "Yah's Exemplary Soldiers: African Hebrew Israelites in the Israel Defense Forces". Religions. 10 (11): 614. doi:10.3390/rel10110614.
  4. ^ Blackwell, Ben. "Hip Hop In The Holy Land - The 'Black Hebrew' Rap Star of Israel - Episode 3". Noisy by VICE on Youtube. Retrieved 13 September 2021.
  5. ^ Levin, Mitchell .A (2015-06-09). "This Day ... In Jewish History". Retrieved 2022-05-18.
  6. ^ Reich, Aaron (2021-07-05). "On this day: Law of Return passed to ensure citizenship for all Jews". The Jerusalem Post | Retrieved 2022-05-18.
  7. ^ Clemente, Lisis (2020-05-30). "Holy Land Hoop Dreams: Why Americans love playing basketball in Israel". Retrieved 2022-05-18.
  8. ^ Remennick, Larissa; Prashizky, Anna (2012). "Russian Israelis and Religion: What Has Changed after Twenty Years in Israel?". Israel Studies Review. 27 (1): 55–77. doi:10.3167/isr.2012.270104. ISSN 2159-0370. JSTOR 41804786.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ Finley, Stephen C.; Alexander, Torin (2009). African American Religious Cultures. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 9781576074701.
  11. ^ Margaret Puskar-Pasewicz (16 September 2010). Cultural Encyclopedia of Vegetarianism. ABC-CLIO. p. 13. ISBN 978-0-313-37556-9. Retrieved 10 January 2013.
  12. ^ Anthony B. Pinn; Stephen C. Finley; Torin Alexander (10 September 2009). African American Religious Cultures. ABC-CLIO. p. 112. ISBN 978-1-57607-470-1. Retrieved 10 January 2013.
  13. ^ a b Markowitz, Fran (1996). "Israel as Africa, Africa as Israel: "Divine Geography" in the Personal Narratives and Community Identity of the Black Hebrew Israelites". Anthropological Quarterly. 69 (4): 193–205. doi:10.2307/3317528. JSTOR 3317528.
  14. ^ "Law of Return". Retrieved 2018-11-10.
  15. ^ Weisbord, Robert (1985). Israel in the Black American Perspective. London: Greenwood Press. pp. 66–67.
  16. ^ Dor Anthony Naheem FISCHER (ISR).