[From Fox 411]
Whitney Houston's in trouble, her
friends fear, and this time it's not because of drugs.
Houston and husband Bobby Brown, along with their daughter Bobbi Kristina,
have been spotted in Israel this week. They say they are there on a private
visit to see a sect called the Black Hebrews, who live in the city of Dimona.
Some believe the Black Hebrews are not really Jewish. And they are not
particularly welcome by Israel, which has tried at various times to expel
them or limit their legal status. Some even consider them a dangerous cult,
run since 1967 by a former Baptist from Chicago named Ben Ami, aka Ben
Israel or Ben Carter, whose real name is Gerson Parker, a 62-year-old former
metallurgist and self-appointed savior.
We'll call him Carter for the purposes of this column.
Houston flew on a commercial jet that may have been paid for by the Black
Hebrews, who have been trying to enlist her and Brown in their cause for
The connection began at Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan's Million Man
March in 1995. At that rally, Farrakhan cited Carter, who was in the
audience, as his "brother." Houston and Brown were in the same audience, and
that is apparently when they met Carter and his group.
Carter at the time offered Houston and Brown a free junket to Dimona to see
how the group lived. Instead, Houston's brother, Gary, and his wife, Pat,
took the freebie. According to my sources, Whitney has since been pressured
to make the trip. Adding to the pressure is the fact Brown's sister, known
as Lele, is a Farrakhan supporter, who has also been lobbying the couple.
Carter's group, The African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem, or Black
Hebrews, operates in the U.S. in several cities including Atlanta (where
Houston and Brown live), Cleveland, Charleston, Tallahassee, St. Louis,
Chicago, Washington (where they operate the Prince Asiel Center), Houston
and the island of St. Croix. They are said to have millions of dollars in
real estate assets.
In most of these locations they function out of a restaurant chain called
the Soul Vegetarian. At the Atlanta restaurant last night, I was told on the
phone that I should speak to one of the "saints" who run the place. The
person who answered the phone said she was a member of "the Kingdom."
In fact, Gerson Parker, aka Ben Carter, managed to take 350 African
Americans from Chicago in 1967 and bring them to Liberia. Two years later
they emigrated to Israel, believing they were the "lost tribe" of Israel.
But the Black Hebrews are well known in Israel and elsewhere as black
supremacists. They also believe in polygamy -- marriage to many women at
once -- and are vegetarians. Members who do not follow their practices are
Some in the group are also criminals.
In 1986, a group of Black Hebrews -- led by Carter's American disciple
Warren Brown, aka Prince Asiel ("angel of healing") -- was found guilty by a
federal jury in Washington, D.C., of operating an international crime ring
that trafficked in millions of dollars worth of stolen airline tickets and
used bogus credit cards and worthless checks to purchase hundreds of
thousands of dollars worth of merchandise. The convictions were overturned,
and when prosecutors sought a retrial, Prince Asiel pleaded to a lesser
In 1990, a U.S.-affiliated offshoot sect of Black Hebrews in Miami -- led by
Yahweh Ben Yahweh, aka Hulon Mitchell Jr. -- was indicted for conspiring to
commit murder and racketeering. Prosecutors said Yahweh directed followers
to commit 14 murders, two attempted murders and the firebombing of a Delray
Beach neighborhood. Several of the victims were decapitated with a machete
and others had their ears cut off as proof of the slayings.
Mitchell was sentenced to 18 years in jail for racketeering. The murder
charges produced a hung jury. Mitchell served 10 years and was released in
It was the aforementioned Prince Asiel who visited Whitney Houston at the
Miraval Resort in Arizona a couple of years ago when she was trying to
detoxify. The Prince -- Warren Brown -- presented her with a plan that the
Black Hebrews could cure her of her addictions. Houston has admitted
publicly to drug use.
What concerns Houston's friends now is that, according to several of them,
no one knew why she was going to Israel after last weekend's Divas Duets
show in Las Vegas. Employees of Houston's company, Nippy Inc., were said to
be taken by surprise when they heard on the news she was in Israel and
visiting the Black Hebrews.
"Her performance on Divas was terrible," says one insider. "And she knows
it. That may have provoked her to make the trip. Maybe she was convinced
they could help her."
Friends are worried Carter's group will use a vulnerable Houston for their
own purposes. That idea seems to have validity since Houston and Brown were
photographed with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon upon their arrival.
Sharon, like most Israelis, shuns the Black Hebrews, considers them a cult
and would never have agreed to be associated with the group.
Another question for Houston when she returns to the United States is how
she will explain this new behavior. Raised a Baptist, Houston is considered
a member of that church. Her mother, Cissy Houston, is a deacon at their
family church in Newark, N.J.
Houston recently axed her longtime publicist, Nancy Seltzer, and her
unofficial spokesperson, Houston's sister-in-law Patricia Houston, is also
28 MAY 2003