PR PLAY OF THE WEEK: R&B stars help Black Hebrews score hits

JERUSALEM: Sometimes a picture is worth a thousands words. And sometimes it just stops people dead in their tracks and makes them scratch their head. Perhaps both apply in this instance.

JERUSALEM: Sometimes a picture is worth a thousands words. And sometimes it just stops people dead in their tracks and makes them scratch their head. Perhaps both apply in this instance.

Just days from what is sure to be a high-stakes summit with newly appointed Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas and President Bush, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon made sure to pay a visit to some visiting dignitaries - namely R&B star couple Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown. The couple, whose erratic behavior has been tabloid fodder for years, was reportedly in Israel to meet with a group the AFP referred to as a "desert- dwelling black Hebrew sect" known as the Original African Hebrew Israelite Nation of Jerusalem, or the Black Hebrews. According to reports, the group believes they are descended from one of the ten lost tribes of Israel. The Black Hebrews adhere to a vegan diet and permits polygamy. The Black Hebrews are said to earn a living through their gospel choir performances, which have earned some renown in the area. An African-American bus driver from Chicago founded the group in 1969. The Black Hebrews are also known for their brightly colored dress, which the star couple dutifully displayed for Sharon. Nevertheless, the AP reported that Israel does not recognize the Black Hebrews as Jews. The couple's visit and tour of the country was intended to demonstrate that Israel is a safe tourist destination. Whether that point was ever truly relayed is uncertain. Yet the Black Hebrews win our PR Play of the Week as this obscure group, which reportedly has only about 2,000 members, managed to gain prominent mention in several wire stories and countless other pick-ups across the globe for forging one of the most unlikely celebrity meetings most anyone could have conjured up. According to the wires, when Sharon asked Houston how she felt in Israel, she declared, "It's home, it's home." It seems politics doesn't only make for strange bedfellows - it makes for strange photo-ops too.

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