Following the report that Bosnian authorities are deporting 24 members of the Lev Tahor cult who had taken residence in the capital city of Sarajevo, cult members took the unusual step of allowing local media reporters into their residence.
After a long period of time during which cult members refrained from allowing photographers into their compound and shying away from interviews, on Wednesday, local Bosnian news outlet N1 interviewed and photographed the cult members.
N1 wrote: “After several rejections, the N1 team was received by members of Lev Tahor at their temporary home in Istocna Ilidza. Two members, Esther and Chayeh, spoke about their way of life, raising children but also about numerous accusations against their community. This group of 37 should leave Bosnia and Herzegovina soon, and they do not want to reveal their next destination, because they claim that they are constantly persecuted because they are different.”
Esther told N1 that she was born into Lev Tahor and isn’t interested in knowing about other ways of life. She said that the Lev Tahor members were happy in Canada but then the social services “knocked on their doors.”
“They came, they came, they came, trying to make us send our children to their public schools,” she said. “But we know that’s not the way we want to raise them. It is not written that way in our holy book, to learn various things like that man came from an animal, from a monkey. I will not allow my children to learn such things.”
Esther said that the discrimination became unbearable and after three families were summoned to court, they realized they had to leave.
“We knew what that meant, we knew the next step was to take our children away and then we decided to leave,” she said.
Chaya, originally from Belgium, joined Lev Tahor when she was 24. She admitted to N1 that her husband is in the US awaiting trial on charges of kidnapping but claimed it was a misunderstanding based on a family conflict.
“He is still awaiting trial, he has no right to bail, as if it is a danger to the community, for the United States, he has been there for 2.5 years, without good reason, he didn’t commit any crime, he only helped save the child from his mother and her friends who abused him.”
The woman told N1 that now they are persecuted wherever they go but their worst experience was in the Kurdistan area of Iraq, where they were interrogated for days due to the numerous accusations against their community.
“We tried to get in touch with the Red Cross, human rights organizations, but they took away our phones, kept us trapped with very little food, just enough to survive, without beds, showers, clothes to change,” Chaya said. “When they let us go, the children already had fungus on their feet for the first time in their lives. On Saturday afternoon they carried us to the airport, holding our arms and legs, taking our children from our arms, and today the children live in fear, they talk about it, my daughter hurt her arm because she clung to me.”
The reporter ended the article by describing some details about the cult members’ living space. “The men pray in the house next door. Apart from tables and chairs, we did not notice any other furniture. The children are playing with commercial toys, and the women have prepared food for us, and what is known in Bosnia as Kljukusa – a traditional Bosnian dish made of grated potatoes combined with flour, oil, eggs, finely chopped onion and spices.”
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)