The yearning to convert and join the Jewish nation, is always a fascinating topic. But no story is more amazing than that of Benson Kakai Mandela, whose journey began in a small village outside of Nairobi, Kenya, thirty four years ago.
Benson was part of an African tribe. He lived in a hut made of cow dung and first saw electricity and running water at the age of fourteen when he began studying in a modern high school in Nairobi.
The ritual of this particular tribe was to acknowledge manhood at the age of thirteen with a ceremony of circumcision witnessed by the tribe. There was no anesthetic and if the young man showed any sign of fear, he was not really a man. The trauma of such a ritual stays with a person for a long time.
In high school, Mandela was a good student and was taught discipline in a very strict manner. Once in ninth grade, as a punishment for coming late to class, Benson was given painful lashes. He was never late again during his four years of high school.
The students in the Nairobi school were presented with Born Again Christianity as the only religious option. Benson connected much more to martial arts than to the religion he was asked to accept. He excelled in martial arts and became a third degree Black Belt.
After receiving a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and Communications, Benson was trained as a private investigator and specialized as a homicide detective. He worked in the British security establishment and was even asked to go to South Africa where he successfully helped solve a murder case.
Mandela is unable to explain his fascination with Israel but for some reason, he kept an Israeli flag on his desk as far back as 2007. In 2009, he was invited to Haifa to study Krav Maga, the Israeli method of self defense. This is where the love affair with the Jewish people really began.
Benson made several trips to Israel between 2009 and 2011. He found the Israeli people to be most welcoming. He experienced Shabbat on many occasions and was impressed by both the sanctity of the day and the great honor and respect given to the Jewish woman in her home.
In 2011, Benson Mandela was offered a full scholarship at IDC in Herzlia. There he received a Master’s degree in counter terrorism and homeland security. Benson was home and his excellent study of the bible had now come to life.
Benson related to many biblical characters but none more than King David. He saw David’s struggles and wanderings and the need to overcome so much adversity. But he also saw David as a great scholar and a great warrior. This is what Benson hoped to become.
Today Mandela is almost there in his quest to become Jewish. He is deeply respected and looked up to by his peers. He is well groomed and a gentleman. He has said on numerous occasions that it would be his greatest honor to defend the Jewish people in any way that he could.
Benson has sacrificed a great deal in deciding to settle. He had a promising and lucrative profession. He was even a friend of the Obama Family living in Kenya. He realized that he must go with his heart and religious convictions.
Being in the presence of Benson Kakai Mandela is most humbling. How is it that a young man can come from so far away and absolutely show an unflinching commitment to Judaism and its teachings. In his mind, it is a given that one must be prepared to risk his life protecting the honor and security of the Jewish people.
Benson himself finds his story difficult to understand. He now needs to figure out not only why this has happened to him but how his story and personal example will raise awareness among our people. If his ability to inspire has already touched so many who have had the privilege to know him, he must continue to reach out to all who will listen.
It is a precious gift to be Jewish and to fulfill the Jewish dream of living in Israel. Sometimes we need a Benson Kakai Mandela and his incredible story, to let us know just how fortunate we are.