Jews and Rastafarians

Awake Zion is a 2005 documentary by Monica Haim that draws a connection between Jews and Rastafarians. Rasta is a religious movement that came out of Jamaica. The followers accept Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia as God incarnate, grow their hair in dreadlocks and smoke cannabis for religious purposes.

Jews trace their history back to the Holy Land of Israel and look to the Torah for instruction. Although Jews and Rastas appear different, both claim figures from the Old Testament as their forefathers, both send a message of truth and love to their followers, both speak of Zion and both have integrated their beliefs into their lifestyles. Haim, who relates to and enjoys both cultures, raises the question, “if we’re both identifying with the same things, are we not then identifying with one another?”

In Awake Zion Monica Haim travels from Manhattan to Jamaica to Israel, to interview Rastafarians and Rabbis whose explanations of themselves sound strikingly similar.

In Awake Zion music is the link between the two cultures, and it was at a reggae concert that Haim, nice young Jewish girl, first saw a connection between Jews and Rastas. “I distinctly remember sitting on a hilltop in the Pacific Northwest surrounded by similes and dreadlocks and sweat and sun,” Haim says, “the bass from the sound system echoing in my solar plexus while small gentle breezes swept past me leaving aural trails of hemp and lavender.”

At one point, Haim interviews Super Dane, an African American DJ that’s part of the reggae scene in Brooklyn who is shocked by Matisyahu—a Hasidic reggae artist from White Plains NY. “It blew my mind,” Super Dane exclaims, “because I pass Jewish people every day and I thought they couldn’t relate to my life. I thought they couldn’t listen to my music.”

The documentary raises shocking and controversial questions, that undermine a traditional approach to the Old Testament. “Did King Solomon have dreadlocks too?” Haim asks a rasta. He smiles slowly and nods– of course he did. Haim then turns to the Old Testament and finds that in Numbers 6:5 it’s written of Solomon that, “all the days of his vow of Naziriteship there shall no razor come upon his head.” Later a rasta says, “the first plant to grow on King Solomon’s grave was herb,” and in Ezekiel 34:29 it is written, regarding King Solomon, “I will raise up for them a plant of renown.”

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