Lev Tahor members barred from entering Mexico on their way to Iran

Members of the ultra-Orthodox sect of Lev Tahor were prevented by Mexican authorities from traveling to Iran and were returned to Guatemala where they have resided since 2014, Mexican media reported.

The sect, which numbers around 300 individuals, the majority of whom are Israelis, has made repeated attempts to reach Iran, first in 2018 and more recently last week.

According to the ultra-Orthodox news site B’Hadrei Haredim, members of the sect are trying to travel to the region of Iraqi Kurdistan, and from there, to neighboring Iran, in order to conduct their affairs more freely without interference. of State.

In July of this year, the FBI and Guatemalan police raided the Lev Tahor compound and arrested at least two senior officials, Yoel and Shmuel Weingarten, who are believed to have arrest warrants against them in the United States for kidnapping and child abuse. ‘children.

Video footage obtained by B’Hadrei Haredim from Mexican media this week showed two buses full of cult women and children about to be returned to Guatemala.

Members of Lev Tahor in Guatemala (credit: JORGE LOPEZ)

Last week, cult members sought to board flights from Guatemala City, but were prevented from doing so by security officials.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry is reportedly working to thwart the cult’s arrival in Iran, over concerns from family members in Israel that they could be used by the Islamic Republic as bargaining chips in its conflict with Israel. , Ynet reported.

B’Hadrei Haredim reported last week that three Lev Tahor leaders are already in Kurdistan awaiting the arrival of other members.

Yoel Levi, a former cult member who escaped in 2018, told Kan Radio on Monday that the group is seeking to settle in Iran so that it can carry out its extremist practices more freely than it can in Guatemala.

Reports have been made of forced child marriages and various forms of psychological and physical abuse by cult leaders against its members.

The group’s founder, Shlomo Helbrand, was convicted of kidnapping and one of its current leaders, Yaakov Weinstein, was arrested by Guatemalan authorities in March this year on suspicion of child abduction.

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