last night we, my partner, my baby, and i, went to soul vegetarian east, a vegan restaurant on chicago’s southside that specializes in ‘soul food’. it was delicious. family friendly. and comfortable. unlike other vegan restaurants we have been to, they had high chairs available, the conversational noise of pleasure and community and jokes. i was so happy to be in a place that was serving healthy, tasty comfort food to black folks. serving our community and all that.
but soul veg east has an interesting history. a history that i, as one who has lived in the west bank, palestine, find contradictory. as the black hebrews who own soul veg east are serving my community good food and vibes, they are also living in dimona, israel.
in israel, dimona, is known as the haven for black hebrews. dimona is a town in the negev of israel. land that was taken, and is continually being taken, from the bedouin who have lived their for millenia. and dimona is the site of where the israeli government keeps their nuclear weapons. nuclear weapons that are threat to anyone who disagrees with their colonialist agenda. nuclear weapons that the israeli government refuses to acknowledge that they possess but they will lock up anyone who publishes information that proves that these weapons exist. to paraphrase an israeli government official: even if we had these weapons we would not say that we had them…
furthermore, the black hebrews, who migrated to dimona from chicago and now has 3000 folks in its community, are not israeli citizens. in 1969, they were offered full citizenship, but then the israeli government rescinded that offer israeli citizenship is only for jews. a few years back the israeli government granted them permanent residency and in 1990, work permits, but refuse to grant them full citizenship unless they convert to state-authenticated judaism.
they have struggled for full citizenship for 40 years.
but what concerns me most is that they live next to/on top of nuclear weapons and that they are living on land that belongs to another people of color also struggling: the bedouins. that the black hebrews are used as a foil in a dangerous game of hide the genocide and the violence.
if they do someday gain the right to full citizenship, they will not only have the right to vote, but also the obligation to serve in the occupying israeli army. and be stationed for two years in the west bank or gaza. to participate even more in the genocide of a people, the palestinians.
so here is a group who advocates strongly for healthy black communities and liberation, that refuses to use animal products in their clothes. their food. their homes. that experiences the usa as a place of enslavement of black folk. that rescinded their us citizenship even though they have not been granted israeli citizenship and thus are not citizens anywhere. and that struggles to be allowed to take more land from palestinians in order to further their own liberation.
did i mention that their lasagna is kickin? and their fried tofu? and i was licking the bowl of their bbq sauce?
and that the us govt paid for the black hebrews school in dimona? and that the israeli govt subsidizes some of their housing?
and thus the contradiction…what is liberation? how can one advocate for the liberation of ‘our’ folks without advocating for the liberation of all beings? what does it mean to be a citizen? and where do i stand in the midst of these questions, since i know very little of the illinois, the miami and other indigenous folks who lived here in ‘chicago’ before the city of chicago was ever here.