The largest intentional community in the African diaspora has launched a protest movement in recent weeks, seeking to learn the truth about the untimely demise of community member Toveet Radcliffe, the first African American to die while serving in the Israel Defense Forces. Rejecting the Israeli army’s ruling that no one other than the 19-year-old Radcliffe was involved in her own death, members of the African Hebrew Israelite community have launched a campaign to pressure the IDF to reopen the case.
Since mid-March, the central square of the southern Israeli town of Dimona, stronghold of the African Hebrew Israelite community, has seen regular demonstrations of support for Radcliffe. Operating a makeshift informational booth in front of Dimona’s City Hall, African Hebrew activists have been distributing information about Radcliffe’s life and death, collecting signatures for petitions in both Hebrew and English, and raising funds to pay lawyers to appeal the IDF decision to close its investigation.
In January, almost a full year after Radcliffe’s death, an IDF representative informed her family of the army’s decision to close the case. The army’s investigation materials arrived at the Radcliffe family home almost a full month later, leaving them with just five weeks to analyze the data and decide whether or not to appeal the closure of the case.
“What is unbelievable is, how does the army permit itself to tell a family in mourning, first, it took them 11 months just to inform them that she ‘committed suicide.’ All that time of uncertainty,” asks Dimona resident Shemohn Osher. Osher and his wife Khaya have spearheaded community efforts to raise awareness about the Radcliffe case – as well as the funds necessary to challenge the army’s decision to close it for good.
“And then from the moment they inform them that she ‘committed suicide,’ how do they permit themselves to come and say that within 30 days, the case will be closed permanently? That gives no respect to the family, no respect to a mother in mourning,” says Osher.
Funds raised by the Oshers and other community members have enabled them to retain the services of a lawyer who is now challenging the IDF decision to close the case. A Facebook campaign to raise awareness about the case has finally succeeded in sparking the interest of the Israeli mainstream media, who had previously ignored the incident for over a year.