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The Search for a Black Zion

Adrift at home, a woman sets out to find the Promised Land—in Jamaica, Ethiopia, Ghana, and Israel

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Emily Raboteau in Kingston, Jamaica.(Courtesy Emily Raboteau)

About a decade ago, novelist Emily Raboteau went to Jerusalem to visit a childhood friend who’d made aliyah. The trip provoked yearnings in Raboteau, the biracial daughter of an African-American father and white mother, for a place where she could feel at home, a Zion of her own. Six years later, that yearning led her to embark on a long journey to learn more about those who leave everything behind in search of a better life in a place they feel they belong. Following in the footsteps of others in the African diaspora, she traveled back to Israel to talk to Ethiopian Jews and African Hebrew Israelites; to Jamaica and Ethiopia to meet with Rastafarians; and to Ghana, home to expats from the United States and elsewhere who wanted to return to the place from which their ancestors were forcibly deported as slaves.

As she chronicles in her new book, Searching for Zion: The Quest for Home in the African Diaspora, Raboteau learned how difficult and disappointing the pursuit of Zion can be and came to recognize Zion less as a geographical destination and more as a place of inner strength and well being. In this episode of Vox Tablet, she speaks with Julie Subrin about these and other discoveries. [Running time:23:28.] 

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Iron Lion in Zion

The Ras Tafari are descended from Moshe rabbenu. The bible ignores Moses’ children, with only a brief mention of Moses’ Ethiopian wife during a jealous dispute with Miriam. That wife was Princess Tharbis of Cush. This marriage occured after Moses was banished from Egypt for not being a “real” Egyptian, at which time he proved himself to be a war hero defending Ethiopia from Egypt’s enemies. Upon winning the war, he got the princess and several children resulted. The Ras Tafari are said to be the direct patrilineal (males all the way down) descendants of Moses, a lineage from which they inherit their mystical spirituality. After this episode of married life, Moses returned to Egypt a war hero, but ended up murderig the Egyptian taskmaster.

Thanks for an excellent interview… loved it…

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The Search for a Black Zion

Adrift at home, a woman sets out to find the Promised Land—in Jamaica, Ethiopia, Ghana, and Israel

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