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Israel - Black Hebrews -

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(generated from captions) Shane McLeod there. Next we go to Israel. Ben Carter was a bus driver in Chicago when he had a vision to lead his people back to their spiritual home. He led more than 2,000 of his Black Hebrew followers to a new home in southern Israel, where our correspondent Matt Brown caught up with them. DRUMS BEAT RHYTHMICALLY PEOPLE CHANT

They're officially known as the African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem.

The way they tell the story, they were driven out of the Holy Land thousands of years ago by the Romans. Then they fled to Africa where they were enslaved and taken to America. We'd like to first thank the Holy One of Israel

for blessing us with this beautiful day in north-eastern Africa.

ALL: Yeah! Their leader, Ben Ammi Ben-Israel, sees himself as a modern-day prophet who brought his people back to their spiritual home. I am motivated by my love - my love for the community, my love for Israel, and my love for all people, and it is my desire to present to them a peace plan

that is based upon the words of the prophets.

(Both sing) Around 2,000 Black Hebrews, as they're called, have made their home in southern Israel. (All sing)

They are best known as singers and, by and large, that's how they sustain their community. (All crescendo in song) Hallelujah! Their modern-day exodus began in 1966, a time of racial violence in America. (Sings) # But the master's work had just begun # And the people were beginning to cry... # Back then, Ben Ammi was known as plain old Ben Carter,

a bus driver in Chicago - a bus driver who had a vision. And the Angel Gabriel did come to bring the word of God that it was time to start the journey back to the Promised Land and to establish the long-awaited Kingdom of God. CHOIR SINGS A CAPPELLA In 1969, after a brief stopover in Liberia, the Black Hebrews made it to their new home. Demona is a tough town in the Negev Desert, right next door to Israel's top-secret nuclear reactor. At first they were welcomed but then relations began to sour. The Black Hebrews say their connection with God predates even the birth of the Jewish people, so despite the threat of deportation, they refused to convert to Judaism. (Blows whistle)

We just saw it as another group of Europeans dictating for us who we were, what we were, what we could and could not do. Stevie Wonder!

Although they attracted star supporters, like Stevie Wonder, the community remained in official limbo for decades. (Sings) # I love you # # I am here

(All sing) # Because I really care # I do... # Their unusual lifestyle also set them apart from their Jewish neighbours. The Black Hebrews are vegans - that means no meat, no eggs and no dairy, but, come lunchtime, they say,

that still leaves them plenty to smile about. They're delicious, nutritious, I better stop talking before you get vicious, All the way down from the Galilee - refreshing, Holy Land watermelon! (All cheer) Just to add to the mix,

the Black Hebrews are polygamous, as well. Ben Ammi has five wives. MODERN MUSIC PLAYS We observe laws of purity and that means that every month that the sister in the house,

once she is in her menstruation

then she cannot go into kitchen, she cannot care for her man. You know, there has to be another female to come in and to handle these things. Israelis shunned the Black Hebrews for decades, until this Palestinian attack in 2002. GUNSHOTS

Six people were shot dead, including the first Black Hebrew to have been born in Israel. He had been hired as the singer at a bat mitzvah celebration. (All sing mournfully) When he was killed, we buried him here.

His father, Prince Elkanann Ben Shaleahk, says the shared tragedy brought the Black Hebrews together with the rest of the country. It opened doors, opened a lot of doors. It was an awakening, it was - on the part of the government - to wake, to make some changes, because the Israeli community didn't know that it was that bad. CLARINET DANCES PLAYFULLY Since then, the Black Hebrews have been made permanent residents. Their children now fight for Israel. We are not neutral when it comes to the state of Israel. I mean that we are an integral part of the state of Israel and we would do whatever is necessary to defend Israel. LIVELY JEWISH MUSIC PLAYS While the Black Hebrews still don't have full citizenship, they feel that at last they've been welcomed home.

Well, that's all for tonight. Thanks for joining us. But, before we go, I'd like to congratulate our China correspondent Steve McDonell,

Africa correspondent Andrew Geoghegan and cameramen Robert Hill and David Martin - all have been nominated as finalists for the Walkleys - Australia's most prestigious journalism awards. You can check out their work on our website and let us know what you think. more stories from around the world. We'll be back next week with Until then, goodnight.