The Feast Of Weeks – A Week Late


For most of the Jewish world, Shavuot, the Jewish feast of weeks, was observed about two weeks ago, on May 19 and 20.

For some residents of Israel, Shavuot came this week, on May 30.

The few thousand members of the Black Hebrews community in Dimona and surrounding Negev towns celebrated Shavuot on Sunday with singing and dancing.

The Black Hebrews — a group with U.S. roots formally known as the African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem — observe Shavuot, as do the Kaarites and Samaritans, other faiths that accept the Torah but not Talmudic interpretations, on the Sunday seven weeks after the Sunday of Passover.

The Black Hebrews consider themselves descended from the tribe of Judah. Their biblically based lifestyle, influenced by African traditions, includes eating kosher, circumcising newborn sons and wearing tzitzit.

Ben Ammi Ben-Israel, second from right, the Chicago native who established the Black Hebrews group in 1960 and moved to Israel with about 30 of his followers in 1990, dances during a Shavuot celebration in Dimona.

Most mainstream Jewish institutions do not recognize members of his group as Jews. Black Hebrews live in Israel as permanent residents; the first member of the group received Israeli citizenship last year.

A Black Hebrew represented Israel in the 2006 Eurovision Song Contest.

The upcoming semi-mourning period of the Three Weeks, which end on Tisha B’Av, are not part of the Black Hebrews’ calendar. Their next religious holiday, marked with the rest of the Jewish world, will be Yom Kippur in early September.

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