How About Those Israelites? A Clarification Piece

Who is that group of street preachers?

Photo by Caleb Fisher on Unsplash

I remember it like it was yesteryear. In fact, I believe it was. During the month of January 2019, I saw this video.

When I watched this video, which gained much popularity and virality, my initial reaction, was that of disappointment. I thought to myself, “We are in the consciousness of American pop culture, and this is the image.” It wasn’t a super positive image to be candid. The optics didn’t look favorably awesome. As a man of Israelite descent myself, I was like, “We need to hire a public relations agent.” As Israelites in America, this definitely puts a stigma, on our squeaky clean image. Yet, if I am totally honest with myself, did we ever have a shiny, clean image in the public eye, to begin with?

In 2015, I used to work as an usher at a movie theater. I remember it like it was five years ago. It has been five years. How time flies! Anyway, a movie was ending, the end credits were gliding up the sliver screen, so I stood at the pathway of the respective auditorium. Holding my dustpan and broom. A moviegoer, a gentleman of color, and I struck up a conversation. I loved interacting with the customers. We ended up talking about spirituality, and he asked,

“Are you a Hebrew Israelite?”

“I am, but not the ones you may be thinking about,” I replied.

I could just tell by the way he asked the inquiry; his intonation, facial expression and delivery, that he had a clear image of a certain group of people, that are of Israelite descent. Who was he picturing? Why I’m so glad you asked!

1West. Camps. I conjecture the gentleman was more than likely picturing the more militant Israelite campers. These are men of Israelite descent, typically on street corners, or in public squares, lambasting passersby. Typically those of much lighter hue. White people of European descent, whom some, not all, call Edomites, or descendants of Esau. More about that later. Let’s talk more about the origin story of these Hebrew Israelite camps.

Abba Bivens. In the 1960’s this dear Hebrew brother, Abba Bivens, left a group called the Commandment Keepers. He subsequently curated his own sect, which is known as Israelite School of Universal Practical Knowledge. I.S.U.P.K. for short. Originally headquartered in a Harlem apartment, they moved to a location on New York’s 125th Street. Three of Biven’s disciples, joined four alleged high priests, to take over the leadership in ISUPK. They were referred to as the Seven Heads. Three plus four is seven. They’re better mathematicians than I. They engaged in racist dogma, and their preferred style of witnessing was confrontational street theater. In the 1980’s the Seven Heads put their seven heads together, and curated a new name: The Israelite Church of Universal Practical Knowledge. After declaring a false prophecy about the year 2000, some members left the group, and you guessed it, formed their own splinter groups. In the mid 1990’s a member of ICUPK broke away to form The House of David. The House of David had many splinter groups, like Israelites United In Christ and Great Millstone.

It would be epic negligence on my part if I didn’t say this lucidly. If you take away one thing, please remember this: Not all Israelites subscribe to the same ideology. As an Israelite man myself, who is not affiliated with any 1West Camps, I can articulate from first hand experience, that our ideology is not monolithic. It’s a colorful, melanated mosaic, if you will. Yes, we do agree on the basics, like honoring the Written Torah/Law in the Bible. That we demonstrate love for The God of the Hebrews, Yahweh, by obeying His Law, keeping Shabbat, eating kosher/clean animals, wearing tassels, and celebrating the Holy Days delineated in Leviticus 23:1–44. It would be an egregious over-generalization, to paint all of us Israelites with a broad brush, presupposing that we all shout inflammatory, profanity laced rhetoric, at white people, or people of non-Israelite descent in general. Speaking of white people, remember the thing about some calling them Edomites? This doctine is derived from Genesis 25:25. Yitzchaq and Ribkah has twin sons. Esau and Yaaqob. The first came out red (or ruddy depending on the translation one has) and covered all over with hair, like a coat. This is the one called Esau/Edom, and his children are called Edomites. Who today is red and hairy? White people! This is what some, not all Israelites believe. I certainly do not subscribe to that doctrine.

It is kind of like saying that all Muslims are radicals. Which is not true. Or saying that all Christians love Chick-fil-A. Okay. That one may be true. Yet, us Israelites are not a monolith, and it is a mistake to think that we all belong to racist, xenophobic 1West Camps. Speaking for myself here, us Israelites are to be a light to the nations. A light to world, per Deuteronomy 4:5–8, and Zechariah 8:23. My Rabbi Yahshua says that the greatest commands in the Holy Torah, are the Shema, loving Yahweh with all our heart, soul, vital force. The second greatest command is love your neighbor as yourself. Per Deuteronomy 6:4–9 and Leviticus 19:18.

Shalom neighbor. I love you, as I love myself.

Lover of Yahweh. Disciple of Rabbi Yahshua The Messiah. Israelite man. Reader of The Hebrew Bible. Writer.

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