Israeli filmmakers arrested in Nigeria

Earlier this week, rumors surfaced on Twitter for the first time that Rochman, along with Leibman and Benaym, was kidnapped by the Nigerian secret police in a synagogue in Ogidi on July 9th. Allegedly Rochman, who is also a French citizen, and his crew, Leibman and Benaym, were taken along with a Torah scroll and brought to Abuja under “dehumanizing conditions”. US, French and Israel embassies are looking into the matter.

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Thank you for the wonderful support we have received from around the world for Rudy Rochman, Andrew Leibman and David Benaym who are currently incarcerated in Nigeria. This is a statement from the families to avoid speculation and inflammatory comments. @rudy_rochmanhttps: //— marcrochman (@marcrochman) July 14, 2021

Rochman and the other filmmakers arrived on July 6th to make a documentary called We Were Never Lost, which focuses on lesser-known Jewish communities, including those in Africa, China, India and Afghanistan, and which the crew is involved in had worked for over a year, according to the families.

As part of that mission, they had visited the Igbo community, including a July 7 meeting with Igbo King Eze Chukwuemeka Eri, which Rochman posted on his social media accounts. According to a statement, the three of them presented the local with a Torah scroll as a nice gesture to communities that they visited and documented. Images of giving were circulated about “non-governmental political groups” and added a political weight to the image that it did not have in reality.

This documentation is not intended to make any political statements about the countries in which the film is being shot.

The film team also does not support any political movements, “the statement said.” The film team is a guest visiting the country and its various communities – there are no political undertones. “

The Igbo consider themselves Jews and one of the lost tribes of Israel, although this is not recognized by Israel or the Chief Rabbinate, and they are not eligible for citizenship under the Law of Return unless they formally convert.

However, some of the Igbo people are in conflict with Nigeria. This conflict stems from a unilateral Igbo declaration of independence in 1967 that sparked a 30-month violent civil war in which over a million people were killed. However, the conflict never ended completely. Nigerian soldiers reportedly destroyed six Igbo synagogues in November 2020.

However, conflict broke out again in the region in 2021, with fighting between Nigeria and separatists in the Biafra region, where the Igbo people live, and the conflict continues.

A notable separatist leader, Nnamdi Kanu, a British-Nigerian national who identifies himself as Jewish, reappeared in Israel in 2018, with a video surfacing of him praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City, the BBC reported. He was arrested in late June 2021 and brought before the Abuja court. However, according to DW, it is not known exactly where he was arrested.

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