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Iron Lion of Zion

Today, (February 6th) is what would have been Bob Marley's 70th Birthday. Bob Marley popularized reggae music and brought the Rastafari religion into the public consciousness. Many of his songs are infused with Rastafarian spiritual ideas. There is an interesting connection between Israel and Rastafarianism. To understand this connection we have to understand some of the basic tenants of Rastafarianism. Rastafari worship Haile Selassie I the Emperor of Ethiopia. Haile Selassie which means "Might of the Trinity" is a regnal name he took on when he became Emperor in 1930. Ethiopians believe that Haile Selassie I is a direct descendant of Menelik I who was the son of the Queen of Sheba from her union with King Solomon. Selassie claims to be part of the Solomonic Dynasty from the tribe of Judah. His name was Tafari and Ras is a title of honor, hence Ras Tafari. When Ras Tafari was coronated and given the title" Lion of Juda , Elect of G-d , King of Kings" many in Jamaica understood this as the second coming of Jesus and started to worship him. Selassie himself was an Ethiopian Christian and did not believe in this. Haile Selassie was deeply connected to Jerusalem and bought quite a bit of real estate in Jerusalem much of which he later donated to the Ethiopian church. When he was exiled from Ethiopia by the Italians in 1936 for several months he lived in the Rechavia neighborhood in Jerusalem. He then spent the rest of his exile in London until he was able to return to Ethiopia in 1941. Haile Selassie retained a love for Israel and the young State of Israel had excellent relations with Ethiopia. In 1960 when Selassie was in South America the Israelis alerted him to a coup that was about to happen and he managed to come back and thwart the coup.

While Selassie had a deep connection to Jerusalem Rastafari consider Ethiopia the true Zion. Marley has many references in his songs to Zion and Judah but until the day that the smoking of ganga, a sacred act for Rastafari, can be done legally in Israel, there are very few Rastafarians in Israel yet Israel and Rastafarianism are connected through Haile Selassie I.

Haile Selassie I

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Photo credit: Daniel Kaszovitz

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