JERUSALEM (Sep. 24)
The Israeli government has decided to grant temporary residence status to the community of Black Hebrews, in a move that may resolve a longstanding dispute. Interior Minister Arye Deri said the status of temporary resident will be offered to members of the sect, most of whom now live without legal authorization in the Negev town of Dimona.
Israel’s High Court of Justice issued a ruling six years ago ordering the deportation of 45 members of the sect for overstaying visas.
The Black Hebrews are a Chicago-based sect claiming to be descended from one of the lost tribes of Israel in Africa. They have been in Israel 23 years.
In 1972, the High Court of Justice ruled that the sect members were not Jews and therefore not eligible for automatic Israeli citizenship.
The government hesitated to expel them, however, for fear of harming relations between Jewish and black communities in the United States, as well as Israeli ties with black African countries.
The community has accumulated debts to the municipal authorities amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars. News reports said the U.S. government has promised the community a grant of $1 million to establish community institutions.