Israeli Black Hebrews mourn diva Whitney Houston

By the Associated Press | February 12, 2012 | 1:05 PM EST

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel's Black Hebrew community is mourning the loss of Whitney Houston, who famously visited them in 2003.

Ben Ammi Ben-Israel, the leader of the 2,500-strong group of vegan polygamists, told Channel 2 TV Sunday that he considered Houston his "spiritual daughter."

In 2003, she visited the Black Hebrews in the desert town of Dimona. The group moved to the Holy Land from the U.S. decades ago. They believe they're descendants of a lost tribe of Israelites.

Houston was found dead Saturday in a Los Angeles hotel room. She had struggled for years with drug and alcohol abuse.

Ben-Israel — a former Chicago bus driver — said Houston was a source of pride for his community. He said he recently invited her back to Israel "to help her overcome her problem."