A spokesman for an anti Zionist Haredi cult was captured praising IDF in a clip that was retrieved Wednesday by The Times of Israel. This could pose a threat to the group’s efforts to seek asylum in Iran.
The clip — a Zoom conversation recorded shortly after the war Israel fought with Hamas in Gaza in May — features Lev Tahor spokesman Uriel Goldman rejecting as a “joke” accusations that the IDF used excessive force during the 11 days of fighting.
“There are [are] people who say “how come you’re at children?” It’s absurd because you know how [Israel] think [s] more about [these] than Americans,” Goldman can often be heard saying.
The clip was retrieved as the cult of roughly 280 members — among whom are citizens of Israel, the US and Canada — has begun gradually making its way from Guatemala, where they are based to Iran, sources familiar with the matter told The Times of Israel on Wednesday.
Relatives and victims rights groups of the cult members have informed the US, Israeli and Guatemalan governments about what they fear could be a “massive diplomatic incident” if Lev Tahor reaches Iran. However, authorities have been slow in responding to the concerns, according to one source.
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“The Shalit deal will look like child’s play next to this,” one relative told the Ynet news site Wednesday, referring to the 2011 prisoner deal with Hamas in which Israel released 1,027 Palestinian terror convicts in exchange for soldier Gilad Shalit, who had been held captive since 2006.
??????? They planned to fly to Iran from Kurdistan. They claimed that they were being “persecuted” and sought asylum in Iran. pic.twitter.com/8aCYZWSxaa
— Belaaz News (@TheBelaaz) October 6, 2021
Lev Tahor filed a request for asylum in Iran in 2018, swearing allegiance to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and claiming that it faced persecution due to its anti-Zionist stances, according to documents presented to a US federal court in 2019.
In recent weeks, several small groups of Lev Tahor members have left Guatemala for the Middle East, seeking to enter Iran through its border with Iraqi Kurdistan, a source familiar said. Authorities and private investigators hired to investigate victims rights groups temporarily delayed the cult’s plans. Some of the members arrived at Guatemala’s airport to discover that their passports had been rejected.
After a request by American authorities, the Guatemalan authorities detained a number cult members, who were allegedly traveling to Iran in recent days.
According to Yeshiva World News, which first reported on the cult’s attempted move to Iran in recent weeks, one of those already in Iraq was Lev Tahor spokesman Goldman, along with Amram Moshe Yosef Rosner and Yosef Hanoch Helbrans.
Lev Tahor girls walking in Chatham, Ontario, in December 2013. Screen capture: YouTube
Goldman could be heard in the Zoom video mocking sympathizers with the Palestinians this summer. “We laugh when they say, “Oh the Palestinians!” So nebach (Yiddish for unfortunate). They are attacking them. It’s a joke. Everyone knows that it’s a joke .”
between me and you.
Sitting next to Goldman and nodding along as he talks is Shmiel Weingarten, who was arrested in a joint raid by American and local Guatemalan authorities in July on suspicion of abusing and kidnapping children. Weingarten is another important leader in Lev Tahor.
The group has been called a cult, and the “Jewish Taliban.” Girls and women older than three years are required to wear long black robes that cover their entire bodies and leave only their faces. Men spend their time in prayer or studying certain portions of the Torah.
“Marriages” are common between teenagers and their parents.