Skip To Content

Support the Forward

Funded by readers like you DonateSubscribe
Breaking News

Leader of Israel’s Black Hebrews Dies at 75

The spiritual leader of an influential group of African-Americans who moved to Israel died Saturday.

Ben Ammi Ben Israel, the Chicago-born leader of the African Hebrew Israelites group that lived in Dimona, Israel, was 75. There was no immediate cause of death, Haaretz reported.

“It was an honor and a blessing to have known him,” Yafah Baht Gavriel, a spokesperson for the community, told the paper. “We will continue to live our lives according to his teachings.”

The death of Ben Israel, known as “Abba Gadol” (Great Father), plunged his followers in Dimona and around the world into a state of shock.

As news spread of his passing, Black Hebrews expressed grief and uncertainty about the future of the community. School was canceled as a sign of respect at the community’s school in Dimona.

Ben Israel was born Ben Carter on October 12, 1939 in Chicago. He led the community to Israel in 1969 after a failed effort to relocate in West Africa.

Ben Israel was the second prominent black spiritual leader to die in recent weeks. Last month, Rabbi Hailu Moshe Paris died in New York at 81.


  • Events

    Haart to Haart


    Dec 7, 2022

    7 pm ET · 

    A conversation with Julia Haart and her son Shlomo, stars of Netflix's 'My Unorthodox Life,' about the new season and much more.

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.