Whitney Houston visited the Black Hebrew community in the southern town of
Dimona during a six-day trip to Israel in May 2003 and told then-prime minister
Ariel Sharon that she felt at home in the country.
Accompanied by her
husband, Bobby Brown, and a large group of family and friends, Houston traveled
from Eilat in the south to Galilee in the north.
She was hosted by Sharon
at his official residence in Jerusalem but pointedly avoided shaking his hand,
letting Brown do so instead.
Asked by Sharon how she felt in Israel, she
said: “It’s home! It’s home!”
Wearing bright red African clothing, Brown and
Houston – who was then 39 – told Sharon they had come to visit friends and
family in the Black Hebrew community. Houston said that while it was her first
trip to Israel, she planned to come back and record a Christmas television
special here – a promise she never fulfilled.
At the time, Houston’s
sister, Patricia, told reporters that Whitney had loved her stay
“We arrived in Israel for a spiritual visit, to meet with our
brothers and sisters in Dimona,” Patricia said. “She is a spiritual woman and
wanted to come here and touch the land.”
A year before, Houston’s sister
and brother had visited Dimona and encouraged the singer to make a pilgrimage to
the Holy Land and the Black Hebrew community. Friends in the community
served as her hosts.
“She is coming to reach out to the community in
Dimona,” Ptachia Weinstein, co-producer of the The Black Hebrews singing group,
told The Jerusalem Post before the visit.
After the trip, a spokeswoman
for the community, Yaffa Bat-Gavriel, denied that Houston had become a member of
the Black Hebrews.
“Whitney’s just a friend,” she said. “[She’s]
coming back to Israel to film her Christmas special... and says she will visit
Houston was said to be planning a recording with members of
the Black Hebrew community, which first settled in Israel in 1969 and became
known for its gospel choirs and singing groups.
She and Brown also met
with then-tourism minister Benny Elon at the King David Hotel.
“It is a
pleasure and an honor to be in Israel,” Houston wrote in a letter to Elon.
“Thank you for your special attention. I hope to see you soon.”