Israeli Black Hebrews mourn Whitney Houston

Israel’s Black Hebrew community is mourning the loss of pop star Whitney Houston, who famously visited them in 2003.

Houston, 48, was discovered dead Feb. 11 in the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif., just hours before she was scheduled to appear at a party for the Grammy Awards, which honored her the following night.

Whitney Houston in 2009 photo/p/matt sayles

Houston, her then-husband, Bobby Brown, and their daughter spent a week in Israel in 2003 at the invitation of the Black Hebrews, a group of former African Americans who moved to Dimona in southern Israel. They were named honorary citizens of the city.

Ben Ammi Ben-Israel, the leader of the 2,500-strong Black Hebrew group, told Israel’s Channel 2 TV this week that he considered Houston his “spiritual daughter.”

During the trip, Houston met with then–Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and, speaking about Israel, reportedly told him, “I feel at home.”

Houston said she hoped the visit would help inspire her in creating a Christmas album and called the trip a “spiritual retreat,” according to reports.

In Israel, as news of her death circulated, radio stations played her music, including her iconic “I Will Always Love You” from the movie “The Bodyguard,” in which she also starred.

Houston had struggled for years with drug and alcohol abuse.

Ben-Israel, a former Chicago bus driver, said Houston was a source of pride for his community. He said he recently invited her back to Israel “to help her overcome her problem.” — jta & ap