Two mothers who are members of a “Taliban-style” extremist Jewish sect were arrested in Jerusalem on suspicion of abducting their children from legal custody, as well as child neglect.
According to police, an investigation was opened after a court order in the wake of a complaint filed by the father of some of the children. Overnight Sunday-Monday, officers located the apartment where the women and children were living, and entered the property accompanied by welfare officers.
Eight children were said to be living in a neglected apartment “in poor living conditions that are not worthy of a person at all — and particularly not for a child,” police said.
But only two of the kidnapped children were found in the property. Police said they were continuing efforts to find the remaining missing children without clarifying how many minors were covered by the court order.
The Hebrew-language Walla news site reported that one of the women’s 15-year-old daughter was already married, and that she wanted her 15-year-old son to marry a 13-year-old girl.
The minimum legal age for marriage in Israel is 18 and the age of consent is 16.
Three women were initially arrested, but one was released after questioning. The remaining two women are being held on suspicion of defying a court order, kidnapping and child neglect.
At a court hearing it was claimed that the children did not eat properly and were reduced to begging.
Laura Bar-On, the attorney representing one of the suspects, said the woman did not know about the court order, and that she took her children due to a disagreement with her husband, Walla reported.
At the hearing of the second suspect, police said the father testified that the suspect joined an extremist Jewish sect, and that the court order was to remove the children from her care.
The Walla news site said the women were members of the Shahalim cult, in which the women wear black head-to-toe cloaks similar to the Muslim chador. According to the adherents, this is the way women dressed in ancient times. There are thought to be two residential groupings of the sect’s members — one in Jerusalem and another in Beit Shemesh.