Documentaries. ‘A Village of Peace’ Explores the Lives of African-Hebrew Israelites Living in Israel’s Negev Desert.
In 1967, a community of approximately 300 African-Americans from Chicago began a two year migration to Dimona, Israel. The group left the United States in hopes of escaping racial tensions and upheaval. The group known as the African-Hebrew Israelites, are now a peaceful community of approximately 3,000, living in Israel’s Negev Desert.
In the 2014 documentary A Village of Peace filmmakers Ben Schuder and Niko Philipides explore the lives of this small community, nearly 50 years after their migration. The filmmakers also reached out to basketball player Amar’e Stoudemire, who joined the team for the film early on the in the production process.
“The story of the African Hebrews is incredibly powerful and dates back to the Civil Rights Movement, but remains a relatively unknown facet of Black History,” says Stoudemire. “Although the community is controversial in some aspects, there is definitely a lot of inspiring qualities that shine through. Based on their diet alone – here is a group of thousands of people who suddenly go vegan and reinvigorate their entire culture. From food, to music, to spirituality, they transformed every aspect of their lifestyle. It is inspiring to see the kind of significant change that strong discipline can reward. A lot of these families came from Chicago, and if you look at the turmoil in Chicago today, the contrast couldn’t be more striking.”
Since its first release, the film has received mixed reviews. Many feel that the filmmakers did not make an effort to ask the community of African-Hebrew Israelites the hard questions about their lifestyle, which includes veganism and polygamy — as per the teachings of its founder Ben Ammi. Ammi passed away shortly after A Village of Peace was filmed.