To get from Guatemala City to Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan Region in northern Iraq, travelers can’t exactly catch a direct flight.
But that’s the route taken in recent weeks by some 70 members of a small Orthodox sect that has been trotting the globe for more than 40 years in search of a safe haven to practice a fundamentalist version of Judaism — one that has led the Israeli press to dub it the “Jewish Taliban.”
From Erbil, the group, whose sect is formally called Lev Tahor, had planned to cross a border into Iran and settle there, according to a group of activists who have been monitoring Lev Tahor’s activities. The activists include former Lev Tahor members who escaped, estranged relatives of the group and Hasidic businessmen concerned by allegations of child abuse in the sect. The activists asked to remain anonymous out of concern for their safety and privacy.