Skip To Content
Fast Forward

What Did Hebrew Israelites Have To Do With Standoff At Lincoln Memorial?

A group of Hebrew Israelites in Washington, D.C. was entangled in a confrontation on Friday with Native American protestors and Catholic school students visiting from Kentucky, The Washington Post reported.

A video that went viral over the weekend showed part of the entanglement, when the students wearing red Make America Great Again hats started mocking and yelling at Nathan Phillips, a Native American and Marine Corps veteran.

Five Hebrew Israelites were at the Lincoln Memorial on Friday, along with the Native American activists, for the Indigenous Peoples March.

“We were there to teach, to teach the truth of the Bible, to show them our real history,” Shar Yaqataz Banyamyan told the Post.

Hebrew Israelites are people of color, mostly African Americans, who believe they are the descendants of biblical Israelites. They typically believe that Native Americans, Latinos and other minorities are also members of different biblical tribes, and that today’s Jewish community is comprised of impostors who aren’t descended from biblical figures. (For more information, read the Forward’s explainer here.)

Videos show the Hebrew Israelites exchanging insults with the Kentucky schoolboys, who were there for the pro-life March for Life.

“Tell them to come over in the lion’s den instead of mocking from over there,” Banyamyan can be heard saying in the video. “Y’all dirty ass little crackers, your day is coming.”

They also taunted the Native Americans, arguing that the word “Indian” means “savage.”

Ephraim Israel, another Hebrew Israelite who was present, told the Post that tensions flared when the students started making fun of them.

“They were sitting there, mocking me as I was trying to teach my brothers, so yes the attention turned to them,” Israel said. “I explained to them, you want to build the wall for Mexicans and other indigenous people, but you’ve never seen a black or a Mexican shoot up a school.”

Phillips, a member of the Omaha tribe, said he blamed both the students and the Hebrew Israelites for the mob-like scene.

“If it wasn’t for those Israelites being there in the first place, this wouldn’t have happened,” he told the Post. “And if it wasn’t for the lack of responsibility from school chaperones, this wouldn’t have happened either.”

Correction, January 21, 8:45 p.m. An earlier version of this story used a photo from a 2016 article. None the men were involved in this situation.

Alyssa Fisher is a news writer at the Forward. Email her at [email protected], or follow her on Twitter at @alyssalfisher

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning, nonprofit journalism during this critical time.

Now more than ever, American Jews need independent news they can trust, with reporting driven by truth, not ideology. We serve you, not any ideological agenda.

At a time when other newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall and invested additional resources to report on the ground from Israel and around the U.S. on the impact of the war, rising antisemitism and the protests on college campuses.

Readers like you make it all possible. Support our work by becoming a Forward Member and connect with our journalism and your community.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.