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Ben Ami Ben-Israel
*On this date in 1939, Ben Ami Ben-Israel was born. He was an African American emigrant to Israel, who was the founder and spiritual leader of the African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem.
Born Ben Carter in Chicago, Illinois, he was raised in a Baptist family. After dropping out of high school, Carter served three years in the United States Army, where he earned his GED degree. After his discharge, he worked as a metallurgist at Chicago's Howard Foundry. In 1961, a co-worker introduced him to the idea that African Americans are descendants of the Biblical Israelites. Carter began to attend meetings of Black Israelite groups, and was given a Hebrew name, Ben Ammi Ben-Israel.
According to the Hebrew Israelite community, in 1966, Ammi received a vision from the angel Gabriel, who told him to lead African Americans to Israel. In the vision, he claimed he was instructed to: "Lead the children of Israel among African Americans to the promised land and establish the long-awaited Kingdom of God." In any case, Ammi was one of four members of the Abeta Hebrew Israel Cultural Center to be chosen to travel to Liberia to explore the possibility of settlement there.
Ammi claimed that he and the Black Hebrews from the original Liberian settlement were not Jews but Hebrews, the true descendants of the ancient Israelites. Ammi originally believed that Moses and Abraham were Black, and that the Black Hebrews were the only "true" inheritors of Israel. In 2000, the BBC's "Focus on Africa" magazine named him the "One of the Most Influential Africans of the Last Millennium".
In 2010, Ammi received a Lifetime Achievement Award in Ghana, West Africa. This award is given out by the Ghanaian Country Awards Council. At the ceremony, the Country Director of CACG (Country Awards Council Ghana) stated that Ammi "has helped bridged the gap between spirituality and development like no other leader before in global history, in the process creating new and progressive options for successfully building communities and projects based on enduring righteous, African cultural principles." Ben Ami Ben-Israel died on December 27, 2014.