“America’s not that pristine queen that she pretends to be…sooner or later she’s gonna have to be washed up,”
says Minister Ahmadiel Ben Yehuda. We’re sitting in the living room of a guesthouse in the Village of Peace: the center of the community of African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem in Dimona, Israel.
In the past year and a half, since the Gaza war and the murder of Michael Brown in the summer of 2014, many projects have articulated intersections between these two contexts: the systemic oppression of POC by Israeli and American societies, and the role of military power in both societies. We were curious to know whether these intersections resonate for anyone in Israel.
We visited the Village of Peace looking for less familiar language to describe the colonial legacies connecting Israel and the United States. What we got was a lesson in deep history, meta-narrative, and prophetic visions. And, many lingering questions: about what it means to reclaim an ancestral home, a promised land; about the margins of Israeli society and the politics of outsidership there; and about the legacy of slavery in the US today.
For this episode of Reconnaissance we went to Dimona, a small city in the Negev desert. Dimona is known for is proximity to the Negev Nuclear Research Center, home of the Israeli nuclear program since the 1960s, as well as communities of immigrants from North Africa, India, and Russia. Among these communities is the Village of Peace. The Village of Peace is registered as an urban Kibbutz: a small communitarian municipality in compliance with Israeli law. The Village of Peace has its own farmland, homes and community centers, its own grocery store, vegan restaurant, and moral code. In the conversation we recorded with him, Ahmadiel gives us an introduction to the history and dogma of the African Hebrew Israelites. For more context, and more about daily life in the Village of Peace, you can look here, here, or here.
Still from an informational video shown at the museum at the Nabataean ruins at Avdat, not far from the Village of Peace in Dimona.
Peace Talks was produced by Sarah Mendelsohn and Fred Schmidt-Arenales. It was released on 12.12.2015. The episode features excerpted conversations with Ahmadiel Ben Yehuda in Dimona, and Hen Alpern, Women in Black activists, and other people demonstrating in Jerusalem. Also featuring sounds by The Soul Messengers. Thank you to Minister Ahmadiel Ben Yehuda, Ahmahlyah Israel, Abba Jacov, and Hen Alpern for talking with us, and to everyone who hosted us, translated for us, and took us places in Palestine and Israel: Hen, Veronica, Itai, Tal, Nicola, Derrar, Saher, Casey, Sam, and David.