Yeshiva World News
Israeli activist Rudy Rochman and two other Israelis were arrested last week in Nigeria for alleged contact with Biafran separatists while filming a documentary on African Jewish communities.
Rochman, a dual citizen of Israel and France and a popular pro-Israel activist who frequently speaks internationally to organizations and on college campuses, traveled to Nigeria to visit Jewish communities for his documentary, accompanied by French-Israeli journalist Edouard David Benaym and filmmaker Noam (Andrew) Liebman.
The three men visited the Igbo community, who consider themselves one of the lost tribes in Israel, in southeastern Nigeria. The area where the community lives is a separatist region, where ongoing conflict has been taking place between Nigerian forces and the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) movement. Additionally, the Igbo themselves have a history of conflict with Nigeria since 1967, when their declaration of independence spurred a bloody civil war, ending two and a half years later with over a million dead. The conflict never really ended and last year Nigerian soldiers destroyed six Igbo “shuls.”
Although the Igbos consider themselves Jewish, they are not recognized as such by Israel or any Rabbinic authority.
Last week, the three Israelis met with Igbo king Eze Chukwuemeka Eri and presented him with a Jewish-themed gift, and also met with another Igbo community and gifted them with a Sefer Torah.
On Friday night, the three Israelis were arrested at a shul in the Igbo village of Ogidi by Nigerian secret police for alleged contact with anti-government separatists. A press statement released by their families on Wednesday explains that “members of non-state political groups” hijacked the photo of the men gifting the Sefer Torah and twisted it as a “politically motivated action.” The political actors posted the photos – accompanied by anti-government statements – on social media, drawing the attention of Nigerian authorities.
The men were taken to the Nigerian capital of Abuja by state authorities and were reportedly being held in “dehumanizing conditions.” Fortunately, however, the families’ press statement clarifies that with the assistance of the US, Israeli and French Embassies, the conditions have been improved.
The statement from the families emphasizes that the men were in Nigeria “as part of a documentary filmmaking effort to explore the lives and customs of Jewish communities around the world,” and had no political motives whatsoever.
“The documentary is not intended to make any political statement about the countries in which filming will take place, nor does the filmmaking team endorse any political movements,” the statement continues.
“As a guest in the community, the filmmaking crew thought it would be a nice gesture…to give a gift of a Torah. Unfortunately, members of non-state political groups have hijacked for their own purposes the images of the filmmakers giving a Torah to the community…twisting in an effort to create an alternate meaning of politically motivated actions.”
“The families of the filmmaking team are stating and confirming that the filmmaking crew does not have any political intentions. We are working diligently with the US, Israeli and French Embassies.”
Please have in mind David ben Miriam, Yisrael ben Simcha, and Noam ben Shimshona in your Tefilos!