An Israeli judge rules the Lev Tahor community of ultra-Orthodox Jews who live in the Guatemalan jungle are a “dangerous cult.”
“Based on the conduct of the sect toward minors, it’s sufficient to call this group a dangerous cult that severely damages the physical and emotional well-being of the children of this community,” Judge Rivka Makayes of the Petah Tikva Magistrate’s Court says in her ruling.
The ruling comes in response to a petition filed to the court by the attorney general and several family members of sect members.
Makayes agreed with the petition that requested the categorization of ultra-Orthodox children who were illegally taken to Guatemala with their parents to join the group as “at-risk” minors.
While the ruling will have little effect on those already in South America, Makayes hopes the ruling will dissuade other ultra-Orthodox families from joining the group.
The group practices an ultra-Orthodox form of Judaism started in the 1980s under which the women wear black head-to-toe cloaks similar to the Muslim chador.
Its adherents do not believe the State of Israel to be religiously legitimate.
The 500-strong sect has left Israel, Canada and the United States in recent years amid child abuse allegations.