October 19, 2018

Family of Toveet Radcliffe, young Black Hebrew soldier found dead on IDF base, searching for answers

Israel's tight-knit Black Hebrew community, a population of around 3,000 American citizens who see Israel as their true homeland, “>Palmachim air force base last Saturday night.

Radcliffe's family told the Journal that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) swiftly ruled her death a suicide and planned for an immediate funeral.

But family members said they pushed for a more thorough investigation, and it appears the IDF has obliged. An IDF spokesperson said in a phone call with the Journal that Radcliffe's death is “currently under investigation, and therefore we can’t elaborate on it.” Her autopsy is still underway. Asked if suicide was suspected as Radcliffe's cause of death, the IDF spokesperson said: “There are no findings at the moment. We’ll have to verify that once the investigation’s finished.”

“>15 soldiers reportedly killed themselves — up from seven suicides in 2013.

But according to a “>points out that IDF service is mandatory for Black Hebrews, due to their status as “permanent residents.” A brief history: Israel's Black Hebrew community took root around 1970, when a group of a few hundred black Americans from Chicago, Illinois, followed their spiritual leader, Ben Ammi Ben-Israel, to the Holy Land. The Black Hebrews self-identify as descendants of ancient Israelites — and although some of them believe this makes them Jewish, Israel's Chief Rabbinate does not officially consider them Jews. For this reason, most Black Hebrews in Israel have not been granted citizenship. However, in the early 2000s, after a long and messy political battle, community members were granted “permanent resident” status — making service in the IDF an obligation.]

“Our hearts and prayers are with the family in this time of sorrow, and we know our pain is understood and felt by many families in Israel who’ve lost their dear ones while serving the nation,” says the Black Hebrew media statement, “>famously interrogated by the IDF in 2012 for his extensive investigation of soldier suicides, “>Facebook wall has welled up with memorial posts celebrating her inner and outer radiance. Wrote one member of her extended family: “God chose the most beautiful rose in his garden when he picked my niece, Toveet Radcliffe… to take home.”