Left to right, Edouard David Benaym, Rudy Rochman and Noam Leibman (courtesy) (courtesy)
Nigeria

Rudy Rochman is a well-known pro-Israel activist who was arrested by Nigerian authorities along with two other filmmakers working on a documentary about the local Jewish community.

By United With Israel Staff

Shortly after Rudy Rochman, a 27-year-old pro-Israel activist and filmmaker, Noam (Andrew) Leibman and French-Israeli journalist David Benaym visited the Igbo Jews in the village of Ogidi, Nigeria, authorities in the African nation arrested the trio.

Three Israeli filmmaker are making a documentary about Jewish communities in Africa and their arrest in Nigeria was confirmed by Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday.

Ogidi is located in the separatist region of Biafra. They were arrested in the Ogidii synagogue by Nigeria’s secret police, the Dept. of State of Services, during Friday night prayers on suspicion of being in contact with separatist leaders.

Rochman has close to 100,000 followers on Instagram and his pro-Israel videos on YouTube have racked up hundreds of thousands of views.

He and Leibman have U.S. citizenship.

Prior to their arrest, the Israelis visited Igbo leader Eze Chukwuemeka Eri and presented him with a decorative synagogue ornament called a sheviti. They also donated a Torah scroll to another Nigerian synagogue.

An Israeli diplomatic source told the Jerusalem Post that the Israelis were not involved in any separatist activities, but that separatists had posted photos of them making claims that drew the Nigerian authorities’ ire.

The families of three Israelis stressed that there were no “political overtones” behind the documentary or the gifts given to the Igbo Jews.

“The filmmaking crew thought it would be a nice gesture to bring several gifts with cultural symbolism to the communities it planned to visit,” the families said in a statement.

“Unfortunately, members of non-state political groups have hijacked for their own purposes images of the filmmakers gifting a Torah to a local community. These individuals are distorting the intentions of the filmmakers in an effort to manufacture a connection to local political matters when no such connection exists. These politically-motivated actors have taken a simple gesture of kindness and twisted it in an attempt to create an alternate meaning.”

The statement thanked the embassies of Israel, the U.S. and France for giving their attention to the matter and to local Chabad for delivering kosher food. It added that Benaym had been allowed to spend one day at the French embassy for unspecified medical treatment on condition he return to DSS custody.

Earlier in July, Nigeria abducted the self-identifying Jewish Biafran separatist leader, Nnamdi Kanu from Kenya. Kanu — the leader of the the Indigenous People of Biafra movement — was charged with terrorism and incitement but fled Nigeria while on bail in 2017.

In recent months, other Biafran separatist groups have become more vocal in their calls for secession.

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