About a decade ago, novelist Emily Raboteau went to Jerusalem to visit a childhood friend who’d made aliyah. The trip provoked yearnings in Raboteau, the biracial daughter of an African-American father and white mother, for a place where she could feel at home, a Zion of her own. Six years later, that yearning led her to embark on a long journey to learn more about those who leave everything behind in search of a better life in a place they feel they belong. Following in the footsteps of others in the African diaspora, she traveled back to Israel to talk to Ethiopian Jews and African Hebrew Israelites; to Jamaica and Ethiopia to meet with Rastafarians; and to Ghana, home to expats from the United States and elsewhere who wanted to return to the place from which their ancestors were forcibly deported as slaves.
As she chronicles in her new book, Searching for Zion: The Quest for Home in the African Diaspora, Raboteau learned how difficult and disappointing the pursuit of Zion can be and came to recognize Zion less as a geographical destination and more as a place of inner strength and well being. In this episode of Vox Tablet, she speaks with Julie Subrin about these and other discoveries. [Running time:23:28.]