King Ayi: We Have a lot of Work Ahead

The first thing one notices when they meet King David Ayi, is a deep sense of personal humility.  It is this humility which caused him to shy away from his royal lineage after being sent to America in 1987. Despite his yearning to be left alone, destiny caught up to him. In 1994 he was crowned King of the Ayigbe people of the Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo, and Benin.  The seat of this Kingdom was in Togo, although most historians confirm it started in Accra, Ghana.

“We always refrained from foods deemed forbidden in the Torah,” the Kings says with his big eyes staring at me as I listened. Circumcisions were also performed on the 8th day, in addition to upholding the Laws of Niddah and celebrating Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year.”

This has been a whirlwind eight weeks for King Ayi, his sixth trip to Israel.  He has dropped Christianity and embraced the religion of his forefathers. In the past he has met with Rav Kanievsky and Rav Shmuel Auerbach.  This trip he garnered the support of the Beit Din (Rabbinic Court) of Bnei Brak as well as the nascent Sanhedrin.

The three times I met with King Ayi, I witnessed countless people come and speak with him, seeking confirmation that there is in fact  a Jewish King from Africa. Some asked for blessings and others just wanted to feel part of something amazing.

Jews of the Gold Coast

Most Jewish history centers around Europe, North Africa, Ethiopia, and the Middle East. Most people have long disregarded Jewish Africa as a fairy tale.  However, more and more information keeps surfacing to support claims that Jews were in fact partly involved with all three famous West African Empires, the Songhai, Mali, and Ghana.  

More than this, there is ample evidence that many of the lost tribes as well as well as the Judean exiles that followed Jeremiah into Egypt made their way West across the Sahara and finally to the Gold Coast of Africa.  This applies to the Igbo nation of Biafra in South East Nigeria and seemingly the Ayigbe people.  Many of these tribes have various levels of parallel Jewish traditions and yet centuries after slave traders, colonialism, and war, have nearly erased direct traces of Israelite ancestry.


Targeted for Destruction

“The Europeans and Muslims purposely targeted our people in West Africa,”  King Ayi says. “They knew what they were doing and worked together with non-Jewish tribes to not only destroy the Jewish tribes of the Gold Coast, but force our people to adopt Christianity.”

Over 60% of African Americans have Igbo blood in them.  Many are descended from the Ayigbe as well. Ultimately history belongs to the conquerors. Any historical records have long been wiped out and yet echoes of the past remain.  From circumcision to reverence for the Shabbat, this past is now reawakening and King Ayi wants to help nurture the homecoming, transforming himself into its standard bearer.  

“We have a lot of work ahead of us.  I want to bring 400 Kings and Queens from Africa to Jerusalem during Succot and scream Shema Yisrael at the Western Wall,” the King exclaims. “We want to bring Jews from all over the world and proclaim to our Father in Heaven that his children have returned!”

Ghana’s Growth a Beacon for a Potential Israeli Partnership

When I landed in Accra, Ghana yesterday it had been just under 16 years since my last visit. The world has changed a few times over since then. Internet technology and communication has created a smaller world, a world where people from any country can dialogue and discuss with counterparts around the world.

Still, some things were the same.  Women selling food and drinks from on top of their heads, children pointing to their mouth and asking for charity (although far less than what I remembered), and a distinct dichotomy between rich and poor.

In the world’s eye Africa has always been behind.  Whether out of ignorance or passive racism the perception that Africa is a bunch of unstable countries, steeped in corruption, and reliant in international aid has persisted well into this century.  

Like anything else, the Western world views the world through a particular historical and cultural context.  It is true Africa and especially sub-Saharan Africa has had its fair share of chaos brought upon it from a clear neo-colonial agenda that saw the Western world take advantage of  ravaged economies, artificial boundaries, and dictatorships it helped to foster.


Ghana as a Model

What has always made Ghana fascinating to me is the relative stability it has compared to many of its counterparts across Africa, although we can point now to many African countries, especially in the lakes region and Eastern Africa that have achieved this as well, Ghana has always seemed to exhume some sort of alternate reality as opposed to other places.

At first glance, Ghana should have similar problems with geopolitical uncertainty as other African countries.  It is an artificial construct of the British merging  a mosaic of African tribal nations together.  It has a strong Muslim population along with a devout Christian populace.  There are vast amounts of poor people, coupled with a strong wealthy upper class.

Yet, with all of the above, Ghana has seemed to skip the chaos. Part of the reason for this is that it did not sink into conflict after independence in 1957, but rather was built in a stable one party rule albeit sometimes military. However, it transitioned when it had into a multi-party rule in 1992, which has allowed for more voices to be heard and aided the growth of an exceptional economy.  Although Ghana needed an IMF bailout due to a spiraling debt, it’s oil production and multi layered economy is a window for what can be in the future.


Ghana as an Ideal Partner for Israel

Ghana has appears to be strategically critical by Israel as a buffer against the spread of radical Islam into the Sub-Sahara.  This takes more importance after Israel lost a growing ally in Nigeria, with the ascendancy of Mohammed Buhari.

Yet, building a strong relationship requires more than weapons, it needs real economic cooperation.  This is where Israeli companies and startups would be able to take advantage of Ghana’s stability and fast paced growth.  Accra may still be a third world capital, but it is quickly transforming into a modern hub in Western Africa.

Although Israel has grown close with East African countries and seems to be placing more of its emphasis on those countries, Ghana would be a great place to start to rebuild its West African strategy, after its miscalculation with Nigeria.