This article considers the process of identity formation among soldiers in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) who were born into the African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem (AHIJ), more commonly known as the Black Hebrews. The AHIJ are a sect of African Americans who began settling in Israel in 1969 and who identify as direct descendants of the Biblical Israelites. Due to the group’s insular nature, the IDF is the primary state institution in which they fully participate, and their mandatory service is a source of both pride and consternation for community members and leaders. Considering the personal experiences of 14 African Hebrew soldiers who enlisted between 2009 and 2010, the article argues that while the soldiers by and large maintain their distinctive identity during the course of their service, they also internalize some of the language, attitudes, and cultural touchstones of the majority Israeli Jewish population. As a result, they experience a kind of “double consciousness”, the feeling of dislocation first described by the African American scholar W. E. B. Du Bois at the turn of the twentieth century.
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