Above: Lev Tahor Women (file photo)
The AFP reports:
…”We will remain in Guatemala because the seed is fertile and it has to germinate," Rabbi Uriel Goldman said in the lobby of the building he now calls home.
Around him were two beds, a bag of dirty laundry and an old washing machine.
The 30-odd families' departure from the Indian village of San Juan La Laguna, 200 kilometers (120 miles) west of the capital, where they had been living for six years, has forced them to take up in a dilapidated six-story building that is not apt for residential life.
"It is an uncomfortable building, especially for children and women, because it was designed for offices, not for living," said Goldman, a tall, robust man dressed in a black suit and white shirt and sporting a long, thick beard.
To spare his people from having to go out to buy food -- some do not speak Spanish well -- the community has set up a makeshift mini-mart on the first floor of the building.
Seated on an old wooden bench, the rabbi said the group will spend about six months in Guatemala City, where rampant crime and violence stands in stark contrast to the quiet and peaceful life they enjoyed in the lakeside village.
"We are going to look for a place where we can build the community's homes," Goldman said in fluent Spanish. He was born in Israel but holds US nationality and speaks four languages.
He said his people are receiving economic aid from Jewish communities in other countries, but would not say which ones.…
Goldman says he and his people have no hard feelings toward the council of indigenous elders and municipal officials who expelled them from the village. But they do not want to go back.
The indigenous leaders accused the Jewish group of not respecting local culture and customs, of not being friendly to local Guatemalans and not believing in Jesus or the Virgin Mary.
They also allegedly bathed naked in Lake Atitlan, scaring away tourists. But Goldman denied the claim.
"For us, the body is sacred, and women uncover only their face. How could we swim in the nude? It goes against our beliefs," he said.…
The AFP's article bizarre. It makes no mention of the accusations of child abuse and forced marriage that have dogged Lev Tahor everywhere the small cult has lived, or that some of the Lev Tahor members living in that building illegally fled Canada to avoid government action to protect their children from the cult.
It also makes no mention of the fact that Lev Tahor's founder and leader, Rabbi Shlomo Hebrans, is convicted kidnapper or that the group has repeatedly liked to courts and to the media.
And Goldman was likely lying to the AFP when he denies bathing nude in the lake. The lake was likely used by the cult as a mikva – and that entails being nude in it. There was no mikva in small lakeside town they were evicted from just over a week ago and mikva use is obligatory for the cult.
As to why Lev Tahor wants to stay in Guatemala, the answer likely is that Guatemala doesn't have much in the way of enforcible child protection laws, and Lev Tahor really doesn't have anywhere else left to go.