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Lev Tahor sect in Guatemala resettles, claiming harassment

500-strong group moving to a village in east of country after raids linked to child abuse allegations

Members of an Orthodox Jewish community put a label from the 'International Rescue Committee for Jewish Families of the Lev Tahor Settlement' on the window of a bus in Guatemala city on September 25, 2016.  (AFP PHOTO / JOHAN ORDONEZ)
Members of an Orthodox Jewish community put a label from the 'International Rescue Committee for Jewish Families of the Lev Tahor Settlement' on the window of a bus in Guatemala city on September 25, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / JOHAN ORDONEZ)

A community of ultra-Orthodox Jews living outside Guatemala’s capital moved out Sunday, claiming persecution because of their faith.

The 500-strong group hails from the United States, Israel, Canada, several European countries, Mexico and El Salvador.

The leader of the Lev Tahor community, the US rabbi Uriel Goldman, said his people are moving to a village in eastern Guatemala because of harassment including a raid of the group’s buildings on September 13 on the outskirts of the capital.

Guatemalan authorities said that search was carried out at the request of Israeli authorities to search for a girl who was barred from leaving Israel.

The raid was also aimed at investigating allegations of child abuse, the Guatemalan authorities said. The community includes some 150 minors.

“We cannot take any more,” said Goldman. “We are going to start over.”

The group is moving to Oratorio, 50 kilometers (30 miles) east of Guatemala City. They have bought land there to build housing but will live in tents for now.

The Lev Tahor sect left Israel, Canada and the United States amid child abuse allegations.

“All the accusations are false. It is just ferocious intimidation,” said Guatemalan David Sandoval, referring to the child abuse allegations.

In Guatemala, this community of Jews first settled in an indigenous Maya farming village, but problems arose with local people and they moved to the capital in September 2014.

Locals said the Jews did not respect local customs.

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