In 1997, back when major metropolitan dailies apparently had enough cash lying around to send staff writers to Israel, The Dallas Morning News profiled the Black Hebrew Israelites, a group of expat African-Americans claiming to be descendents of the tribe of Judah and, therefore, Jews.
It was an unexpected mashup of '60's black nationalism and Old Testament literalism, a tiny but close-knit community stubbornly clinging to the fringes of Israeli society and mainstream religion.
The Black Hebrew Israelites are still around. Some of them, apparently, are spending weekends in Downtown Dallas. A Friend of Unfair Park sends word that he spotted a group on Main Street this weekend and passed along a YouTube video showing them demonstrating a couple of months back:
It's a bit like watching a military drill, with shouted commands ("WE CAME ALL THE WAY OUT HERE AND Y'ALL SOUNDING LIKE SOME DAMN WUSSES. WHO'S THE KING?") and a yelled response ("CHRIST!").
The cameraman, a white guy, engages one of the leaders in a brief debate on biblical exegesis:
BHI: You know what your biblical name is? Esau.
Cameraman: God hated Esau, didn't he?
BHI: That's right.
Cameraman: You think God hates me?
BHI: I don't think.
Cameraman: You know he hates me?
BHI: That's right.
Cameraman: You guys hate me? All you guys hate me because I'm white?
BHI: I wouldn't say it's a personal thing. It's not personal. It's just biblical.
Cameraman: Do you think you're a Jew and I'm a gentile?
BHI: I know I'm a Jew.
Cameraman: Do you think I'm a gentile?
BHI: Not a gentile for salvation. A gentile for destruction. There are two types of gentiles in the New Testament. See that's what you don't understand. That's why a lot of people think the Bible's a universal book. It's not it's not a universal book.
Cameraman: You think it was written for me?
BHI: It's not.
Just in case you were wondering what all the yelling was about.
Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.