2014 | 26 | 317-340
Article title

“Food for Peace”: the vegan religion of the Hebrews of Jerusalem

Title variants
Languages of publication
A debate over the morality of Kosher slaughter [Shechita (Hebrew: שחיטה)] has raged in Poland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and Denmark, where the Jewish ritual slaughter was outlawed. The more the debate goes on, the more awareness arises to Shechita as a basic Jewish religious practice. Yet veganism is a Hebrew religious operation too. This article discusses Hebrew vegan belief in terms meaningful to Jews, yet considering its utopian nature, in terms applicable to others as well. Both Shechita and veganism have universal Hebrew claims. Yet both claims are to be studied. Within this vast theme, I will analyze here veganism only, with respect to its utopian role and as a theological structure of one, yet global, community: the African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem. They believe themselves to be the descendants of Judah, the fourth son of Jacob Israel. They are Jewish by their cultural nature: they observe Shabbat, Torah and a weekly fast. In 70 A.D. after the Romans destroyed the second temple they escaped and fled southward and westward to various nations in Africa two millennia ago where they were sold as slaves and were enslaved in America. They left America in 1967 led by their spiritual leader Ben Ammi, defined their departure as an exodus from America. Via Liberia – where they became vegans – they arrived in Israel in 1969, established an urban kibbutz, a collective communal living which is located in a desert region. Like most Jews, their diet has tremendous importance, but unlike most Jews they are vegan. The African Hebrews have very specific vegan dietary practices. Their tradition includes teaching and studying a special diet, which is vegetarian, organic and self-produced. They observe Shabbat strictly. On Shabbat, they fast and cleanse. This mirrors their spiritual outlook that eating is a hard labor of which they are obliged to rest from by the Ten Commandments. This article presents a breakthrough idea that fasting on Shabbat indeed reflects an ancient Israelite religious tradition. “Food for Peace” s a metaphor for the theology of the Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem unfolding their messianic utopia through which they believe people may achieve inner peace and even world peace, encompassing decades of powerful hopes, realities and nutritious lifestyle.
Physical description
  • Dr. Shelley Elkayam – Georg-August-Universität Göttingen & The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
  • Agus J. B., Banner of Jerusalem: the life, times, and thought of Abraham Isaac Kook, the late chief rabbi of Palestine (New York 1946: Block Publication Co.): 243.
  • Altmann, A., Homo Imago Dei” in Jewish and Christian Theology, The Journal of Religion, 1968, Vol. 48, No. 3. (Jul., 1968): 235–259.
  • Austirzitzer, I., The Wills of the Tribes, Madasa, Tel Aviv 1960, in Avraham Kahana, Apocryphal Books, Vol. A, 142–215.
  • Awaad, S., An interview at the Holy Land Trust, Beit Lechem-Beit Jalah, 24.10.2007.
  • Barker, P. Hulme, and M. Iverson (eds). (YEAR??) Cannibalism and the Colonial World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.)
  • Bar-Or, R., and Harel N., An island of sanity: The Black Hebrews Community in Dimona, Teva HaDvarim 1994, April-May, 3.
  • Beit-Hallahmi, B., “Black Hebrews in the Promised Land”. Middle East Report 1601989, 2007, p. 36.
  • Ben Ammi., God, the Black Man and Truth (Communicators Press Washington DC, 1982).
  • Ben Ammi., The Messiah and the End of this World (Communicators Press, Washington DC, 1991).
  • Ben Ammi., Everlasting Life, From Thought to Reality (Communicators Press Washington DC, 1994).
  • Ben Ammi., An Imitation of Life. (Communicators Press, Washington, DC, 1999): 22.
  • Ben Ammi., The Revival of the Holy Spirit. (Communicators Press, Washington DC, 2004).
  • Ben Ammi., The Resurrection, From Judgment to Post-Judgment. (Communicators Press, Washington DC, 2005).
  • Bhabha, H.K., The Location of Culture. (London 1994: Routledge).
  • Bokser B.Z., Hidden Meanings in the Writings of Rabbi Kook, Proceedings of the American Academy for Jewish Research. Vol. 44. (1977): 19–27. [online]
  • Booker T Washington, The Future of the American Negro (Boston Small Maynard and Co, 1902): 182ff, quoted in Deanne Shapiro, “Factors in the Development of Black Judaism,” in C Eric Lincold (ed) 1972. The Black Experience in Religion (New York: Anchor Press): 254–255.
  • Boyarin, D., ‘Colonial Drug: Zionism, Gender, and Mimicry’, Te’oryah Uvikoret 11: 123–44 (1997).
  • Bray, G., Health hazards associated with obesity in adults. In: UpToDate, 2008, Pi-Sunyer MD (ed), Martin MD (ed) (Waltham MA: UpToDate).
  • Chidester D., Authentic Fakes: Religion and Popular American Culture (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2005).
  • Divisi, D., ‘Diet and cancer’, Acta bio-medica de L’Ateneo parmense 0392–4203 Divisi yr: 2006 vol:77 iss:2 :118–23.
  • Douglas M., Purity and Danger: An Analysis of Concepts of Pollution and Taboo. (London: Routledge, 1966).
  • Douglas M., ‘Introduction to the Hebrew edition of Purity and Danger’ in “Purity and Danger: An Analysis of Concepts of Pollution and Taboo. (Tel Aviv: Resling, 2004): 7–13. [Hebrew].
  • Du Bois, W.E.B., “A Negro Nation With A Nation,” Current History and Forum XLH:3. 265. 270; Philip Foner (ed.). 1970. W.E.B. Du Bois Speaks: Speeches and Addresses, 1920–1963 (New York: Pathfinder Press, 1935): 77–86.
  • Du Bois, W.E.B., The Souls of Black Folk (New York: Signet Classic Printing, 1969): 6–45.
  • Dundes, A., ‘Seeing is Believing’, Natural History 81(5), 1977: 8, 10–12, 7–86.
  • Dyer, D., CELLFOOD. (Feedback Books, Inc., 2000).
  • Eliade M.,Couliano I. P., Wiesner H. S. [1990] Dictionaire des Religions. (Carmel: Jerusalem, 2002). [Hebrew: 2001].
  • Elkayam, S., ‘Cognitive behavioural treatment in reading sessions for students diagnosed with attention deficit problems’ [ADHD], M.A. dissertation submitted to the University of Liverpool, 2001, August 2001.
  • Elqayam, A., ‘Between Referentialism and Performativism: Two Approaches in Understanding the Kabalistic Symbol’, Daat 24. 5–40. [Hebrew]: 1990.
  • Elqayam, A., ‘Shabbatine Cousin’, Pe’amim Studies in Oriental Jewry, (Ben-Zvi In-Statute, 2006): 105–106, 251–219.
  • Elyakeem, B. Y., Letter in response questions. (Dimona, Israel, 2007).
  • Gilat, Y. D., Studies in the Development of the Halakha. (Ramat Gan, Israel: Bar Ilan University Press, 1992). [Hebrew].
  • Grossman, N. ‘The Black Hebrew Community in Israel’, Midstream: 13–17, 40. (2007).
  • Guttmann, Y., Lectures on Philosophy of Religion, (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, at the Hebrew University, 1981).
  • HaCohen, A, Y. (Kook)., “The vision of vegetarianism and peace: From Torah point of view: lights from the articles Afikim BaNegev and Tlalei Orot”, 1903-1904, (ed.) David Cohen (Jerusalem), Nezer David, 1983.
  • HaCohen, A, Y. (Kook)., Chapter 1, in Orot Hakodesh: ten articles and seven chapters, 1963-1964, (ed.) David Cohen (Mosad Harav Kook).
  • Harris W., The Scientific Basis of Vegetarianism. (Hawaii: Health Publishers, 1995).
  • Hiers A. H., Black Gods of the Metropolis Negro Religious Cults in the Urban North, (Philadelphia: University of Penn Press, 1980) [1944]: 31–40, 69–70.
  • Hiers H., R H., ‘Reverence for Life and Environmental Ethics in Biblical Law and Covenant’, Journal of Law and Religion. [1999] 7/19/2000.
  • Hoffman, K., The Cult on Coventry. (Cleveland Scene, 2002).
  • Huss, B., ‘R. Joseph Gikatilla’s Definition of Symbolism and its metamorphosis in the kabalistic literature’, Kolot Rabim, The Studies of Jerusalem in Jewish Thought, 1996, 12: 157–176.
  • Israeli Foreign Ministry, The Hebrew Israelite Community, facts%20about%20israel/people/the%20black%20hebrews [29 September 2006].
  • Jones, E F., ‘Black Hebrews: The Quest for Authentic Identity’. The Journal of religious thought, 1988, 44.2: 35–49.
  • Kahana A. Apocrypha, A. [In Hebrew] [1960].
  • Kant I., The Critique of Pure Reason, [1981][1787] (German: Kritik der reinen Vernunft, 1954).
  • Kilgour, M., ‘The Function of Cannibalism at the Present Time’: 238–59 in F. Kjeldsen-Kragh J., ‘Controlled trial of fasting and one-year vegetarian diet in rheumatoid arthritis’, Lancet (Medical Journal, 1991), The 0140–6736 vol: 338 iss: 8772: 899–902.
  • Konighofer M., The New Ship of Zion. Dynamic Diaspora Dimensions of the African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem. Lit-Verlag 2008 (Afrika und die Diaspora, Bd. 7).
  • Kreisel H. ‘Imitatio Dei in Maimonides’ Guide of the Perplexed. AJS Review, 1994, Vol. 19, No. 2: 169–211.
  • Malcolm X., Malcolm X speeches at Harvard. Archie Epps, (ed.). (New York: Paragon House, 1991).
  • Malcolm X., By an means necessary. (New York: Pathfinder, 1992).
  • Marcus, G. F., The Algebraic Mind: Integrating Connectionism and Cognitive Science (Learning, Development, and Conceptual Change). (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2001).
  • Markowitz, F., ‘Israel as Africa, Africa as Israel: “Divine Geography” in the Personal Narratives and Community Identity of the Black Hebrew Israelites.’ Anthropological Quarterly, 1996, Vol. 69, No. 4. : 193–205.
  • Markowitz, F. Helman, S., Shir-Vertesh D., ‘Soul Citizenship: The Black Hebrews and The State of Israel’, American Anthropologist, 2003. 105(2): 302–312.
  • McCarty, M., F., ‘A preliminary fast may potentate response to a subsequent low-salt, low-fat vegan diet in the management of hypertension – fasting as a strategy for breaking metabolic vicious cycles’, Medical Hypotheses, 2003, 0306–9877 vol: 60:5, 624–33.
  • McCarty, M., F., Falahati-Nini A., ‘Neuro-protective potential of the Bahadori leanness program: a “mini-fast with exercise” strategy’. Medical Hypotheses, 2007, 0306–9877, vol: 68:5, 935–40.
  • McLane E., An interview, Jerusalem, 2007.
  • Melloni B. J., Melloni’s Illustrated Medical Dictionary 2nd ed. (Williams and Wilkins, 1985).
  • Mimon, A. [Avraham son of Maimonides], Sefer Hamaspik – kafaya elabadin, (Jerusalem, 1965): 14–15.
  • Moore T., De optimo Reipublicae statu, deque nova insula Utopia. ( Basel, 1516) [Latin].
  • Oded, A., Judaism in Africa – The Abayudaya of Uganda, African Jews of Uganda and their Contacts with the World Jewry. (Jerusalem, 2003).
  • Ovadia N. Law of the Word, Natania Israel, 1991, Avraham Avinu 1850 BC.
  • Rofeh Y, B. Y., The Sacred Sustenance of the Immortals: The African Hebraic Concept of Bio-Evolution, The Ministry of Divine Health, The Hebrew Israelites Community of Jerusalem, The Village of Peace, Dimona, Israel, 31 July 2007 (The scriptural references used in Rofeh’s paper are taken from the New Scofield Reference Bible.)
  • Roman D. L., ‘Vegetarian diets; effect on health’, Revista cl´ınica espan˜ola, 2007, 0014–2565 Daniel vol: 207:3, 141–3.
  • Rucker, W., ‘A Negro Nation Within the Nation’, W.E.B. Du Bois and the Creation of a Revolutionary Pan-Africanist Tradition, 1903–1947, The Black Scholar, 2002, Vol. 32, Issue 3/4: 37–46.
  • Sade, D., 2007,,,xCT-81,m-Doctors,a-Article.html
  • Sales, W.W.J., From civil rights to Black liberation: Malcolm X and the organization of Afro-American unity, (Boston: South End Press, 1994).
  • Shemesh, Y., The vision of vegetarianism and peace in the teachings of Rabbi Yitshak HaCohen Kook, Teva-on and Health, 2000. 105: 13–14. [Hebrew].
  • Stern M., Philo – on the Essens, (Shtibel: Tel Aviv, 1937).
  • Stern M., Greece and Latin Authors of Jewish and Judaism, I. (Jerusalem, 1974): 335, 337.
  • Suetonius., 121 CE. De Vita Caesarum, Divus Augustus, The Lives of the Caesars – The Deified Augustus 77, 2 Vols., trans. J. C. Rolfe (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1920): 123–287. Scanned by: J. S. Arkenberg Dept. of History, Cal. State Fullerton.
  • Tsoffar-Mizrahi, R., ‘A Land that Devours its People’: Mizrahi Writing from the Gut’, Body and Society, 2006, Vol. 12 No. 2: 25–55.
  • Washington B. T., The Future of the American Negro (Boston Small, Maynard and Co, 1902) pp 182ff, quoted in Deanne Shapiro, “Factors in the Development of Black Judaism,” in C Eric Lincold, (ed.), The Black Experience in Religion (New York: Anchor Press, 1972): 254–255.
  • Washington, J. R., Black Sects and Cults (New York: Doubleday, 1972): 132.
  • Werbach. Melvyn R., Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine, 1995, Vol. 7, No. 1.
  • Werbloveski, Z., Hebrew Encyclopedia, 22. (Jerusalem, 1972) [Hebrew].
  • Yirmeyahu, B.Y., Interview, Village of Peace, October 11, 2007.
  • Zeitlin, S., ‘The Essenes and Messianic Expectations: A Historical Study of the Sects and Ideas during the Second Jewish Commonwealth’, The Jewish Quarterly Review. New Ser., 1954, Vol. 45, No. 2. : 83–119.
  • Konighofer, M., The New Ship of Zion. Dynamic Diaspora Dimensions of the African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem, Lit-Verlag, 2008, (Afrika und die Diaspora, Bd. 7).
Document Type
Publication order reference
YADDA identifier
JavaScript is turned off in your web browser. Turn it on to take full advantage of this site, then refresh the page.