Two African-Americans Jews – a Florida woman and her son – were reportedly turned away from Israel because of their connection to a community not recognized as Jewish.
Idit Malka and her 10-year-old son Kahxin from Cape Coral had arrived on June 12 to attend a family wedding in Yeroham, a town in the Southern District of Israel.
However, they were detained for almost 48 hours at Ben Gurion Airport and denied entry over suspicions that the mother was planning to stay in Israel to join the Black Hebrews community.
Malka’s family moved to Israel from the U.S. and was associated with the Black Hebrews when she was a child, but they eventually separated from the movement over ideological differences once she turned 13.
She then returned to the U.S. in her teens and underwent a Reform conversion to Judaism in 1995 and a Conservative conversion in 2004.
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Two years later, according to the Jerusalem Post, Malka applied for citizenship in Israel, but after being “put through a bureaucratic tangle that lasted four years,” she and her children had to go back to America.
After 2010, she decided to re-enter Israel this June. But the Population, Immigration and Border Authority suspected Malka and her son planned to stay in Israel instead of returning to the U.S. on Aug. 20 and they were sent back. Malka denies the accusations.
Black Hebrew Israelites, also known as Black Hebrews, African Hebrew Israelites and Hebrew Israelites, are groups of African-Americans who believe they are descendants of the ancient Israelites. However, since this faction follows its own version of Judaism, it isn't recognized by any other Jewish sects.
Haaretz notes African-American converts have recently come under intense scrutiny in Israel. The country’s Interior Ministry is concerned they may be using their conversion in order to immigrate to join the Black Hebrews in Dimona.
Meanwhile, Malka is offended at the way she and her son were treated in Israel and her case is being seen as an act of discrimination by Israeli authorities by many.
“I have a 10-year-old who wanted to visit his cousins and family, and he’s had his summer vacation ruined in the most horrific way,” she told the Post. “As an American citizen, I shouldn’t need prior coordination to visit Israel. And a Jew does not need to coordinate before visiting her homeland.”