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Kahane: Defend Israel’s Honor Against Insults from Black Hebrews

October 15, 1971
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

This Negev town gave a rousing welcome last night to Rabbi Meir Kahane, leader of the Jewish Defense League, who addressed a capacity crowd in the local movie auditorium, exhorting them to “guard the nation’s honor” against “insults” he attributed to a community of several hundred self-styled Black Hebrews from the United States who have settled here during the past two years. It was the militant rabbi’s first speech in Israel since he arrived here to settle last month and it struck a responsive chord in his audience which included Jewish emigres from the Soviet Union. Rabbi Kahane’s theme was a familiar one. He accused the American Jewish leadership of being silent on Russian Jews until 1964 and of having kept silent during the Nazi holocaust. But his main subject was the Black Hebrews who live in squalid conditions here and have become a source of friction with the established population and local authorities.

Seizing upon the recent claim of one of the Black Hebrew leaders that they were God’s true heirs to the land of Israel. Rabbi Kahane accused the group of insulting Jewish honor. He contended that David fought Goliath not because he threatened Israel but because he insulted it in the manner of the Blacks. “If they say God is Black that is God’s business. But if they say Moses and Abraham were Black then this is a reflection on our ancestry…They deny us the Divine right to our country. This is an insult and no nation cherishing its honor can stand such an insult.” Rabbi Kahane declared. He said Dimona and Israel must solve this problem “without violence” but, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency correspondent reported, in the context of what he said before, few people in the audience took this admonition seriously. Police were out in force to prevent possible incidents but none occurred. The Blacks remained in their part of town.


Earlier yesterday, Rabbi Kahane staged his first demonstration in Israel and the US Embassy in Tel Aviv was the target. Flanked by JDL followers and members of the militant Betar organization, he picketed the Embassy in protest against Secretary of State Rogers’ Middle East policies which he claimed were pro-Arab. Rabbi Kahane and two of his followers were later received by an Embassy official. Rabbi Kahane’s visit to Dimona marked his true debut here and gave Israelis a foretaste of what they might expect in the future from the JDL leader. The selection of Dimona for his maiden speech in Israel was regarded as a calculated move. This remote town about 25 miles south of Beersheba, is a stronghold of the rightwing Gahal faction and the National Religious Party.

Tensions have been exacerbated by the presence of the Black Hebrews who according to local authorities, refuse to abide by regulations, refuse jobs and don’t recognize the government’s authority. After Rabbi Kahane ended his speech, scores of youths registered for membership in the JDL. The JTA reporter was told by two members of the audience, immigrants from Riga, that they had come to see Rabbi Kahane, not to hear about the Blacks. But they contended that his actions in the US helped a great deal in making their emigration possible. They refused to identify themselves on grounds that harm might come to relatives still in the USSR.

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