At dawn on Tuesday morning, a large group gathered on a mountain in the Negev desert to reenact the moments leading up to the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt.
Dressed in robes and flowing dresses, these pilgrims prayed, sang spirituals and discarded the leftovers from their seder meals into the flames of a massive bonfire, in a scene that evoked comparisons to the film “The Ten Commandments.”
“It’s one thing to see Charlton Heston in a movie,” said Ahbir Ben Israel, who stoked the fire with kerosene. “But we know that the Exodus is not just a story, it’s our history.”
The burning of excess food from the seder meal is just one of the ways that the African Hebrew Israelites, also known as the Black Hebrews, try to “take that ancient reality and make it contemporary,” Ben Israel said. They also remain in their houses from midnight until daybreak – when the Angel of Death is believed to have passed over the Israelites’ houses – and, according to God’s instructions, sleep in their clothing in order to be able to flee at any moment.
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