Israeli Court to Decide On Legality of Sick, Abusive “Ultra-Orthodox Taliban Sect” That Distorts Tznius and Halacha


taliban-women-jewsIn a precedent-setting move, an Israeli court is expected to decide next week whether it is legal to belong to the extreme group Lev Tahor, known as “the Taliban sect,” which claims to be chareidi – “ultra-chareidim” but, in reality, distorts the laws of tznius and has been condemned by Torah leaders for the “hashkafos” it espouses.

A decision reached this week by a family court in Rishon Letzion indicates that a ruling on Lev Tahor’s legality is imminent.

The decision follows what appears to be the conclusion of an international family drama involving two sisters from Beit Shemesh who belong to the  sect. The two were forcibly returned to Israel on Sunday under an order issued by the court. The sisters, 13 and 15, were en route to a Lev Tahor village located on the outskirts of Montreal, Canada.

The brother of the sister’s grandmother petitioned for the writ; the great-uncle was concerned that the girls might be harmed living in the Canadian community.

The Lev Tahor community is a cult, he contended; should the girls enter it, they would be stripped of all their property, he wrote, and they would be compelled to wed male members of the cult, which is an accepted practice among all young women in the group.

The Israeli court upheld the petition, finding that “there is some defect in the parents’ perception of ways of life.”

Judge Rivka Makayes ruled that the writ will remain in effect until next week, at which time a family court in Jerusalem will hold a hearing to decide whether the pious lifestyle upheld by the parents is marred by such a defect.

The Jerusalem court’s ruling will have implications for all members of the Taliban sect in Israel. Should the court find that it is illegal to belong to the community, social welfare agencies will be able to take immediate steps to remove children from the control of parents who are affiliated with Lev Tahor.

Bringing the Beit Shemesh sisters back to Israel was an international operation, involving the foreign ministry and Interpol. The goal of the operation was to stop the pair from entering the ultra-Orthodox community in Canada.

The community was established about a decade ago, and today has about 45 families, some of them newly Orthodox Israeli families. Women are clothed from head to foot in black garb.

The leader of the Lev Tahor community calls himself Shlomo Elbarnes. From Jerusalem’s Kiryat Yovel neighborhood, this  figure began forming extremist Orthodox groups in the United States some 20 years ago. His followers are said to heed his authority entirely.

Elbarnes brought his followers to Canada after U.S. authorities expelled him due to charges that he coercively asserted control over a 13-year-old minor. Elbarnes settled with his group outside of Montreal, where they are said to be fervently religious, holding “prayer services” that last nearly the entire day.

Rituals of the Lev Tahor community reportedly involve lashing anyone considered a “sinner,” and sending 14-year-old girls to the wedding canopy.

At dawn last Wednesday, the parents of the Beit Shemesh girls put their daughters on a flight to Montreal, intending for them to join the Lev Tahor group after Rosh Hashanah.

“We checked the place thoroughly, and it seemed suitable,’ said L., the mother of the girls, who spoke on Monday at Ben-Gurion International Airport.

But when the girls reached the airport in Canada, two Canadian officials detained them and said they would not be able to enter the country.

“We reached the airport in Canada,” the older of the two young women said. “We saw people from Lev Tahor waiting to take us to their community, but suddenly policemen came and took us aside.”

“We tried to resist. We screamed and cried,” the girls said Monday after they were brought back to Israel. Due to Rosh Hashanah, they were not immediately flown back to Israel. They were temporarily placed under the care of a family in a Canadian orphanage. Sunday morning, they were put on a return flight to Israel, where they remained under the watchful eyes of Canadian police representatives.

When they reached Ben-Gurion International Airport, the two were taken by authorities to meet with a social worker from Beit Shemesh. The social worker phoned their parents, who had no knowledge of their daughters’ return to Israel. The social worker informed the parents that the girls were being held at the airport.

According to the parents, the social workers stated that their daughters would only be permitted to return to them if the parents signed a form attesting that they would not try again to send the pair to the Lev Tahor community in Canada.

The girls were released after the parents’ attorney reached the airport.

The lawyer, Yair Nehorai, stated that “the behavior of the various authorities in this affair seems problematic.”

The Beit Shemesh municipality responded that “concerns about the welfare and security of these girls is what motivated decisions reached in this matter. All the decisions were reached in full coordination with the Social Affairs Ministry and in accordance with obligatory procedures.”

It should be reiterated that this cult, or sect, has been rejected by all of mainstream Judaism, and its practices are contrary to the spirit of laws of the Torah.

{Yair Israel, with reporting by Haaretz}



  2. any one have more information on this?
    1.the great-uncle was concerned that the girls might be harmed living in the Canadian community? How so? There must be more to this otherwise the police wouldn’t get involved?
    2. stripped of all their property. What property exactly do they have w/ them if any?
    3. what does this mean “coercively asserted control over a 13-year-old minor”?
    4. lashing anyone considered a “sinner,”? Is this true?
    5. suddenly policemen came and took us aside.”“We tried to resist. We screamed and cried. This sounds like the girls want to go where they are going and aren’t be forced to me

  3. People, we’re slidding down a very slippery slope.
    MY opinion – they’re nuts! Yes against Hallacha!
    Do we want an Israeli secular court to decide what group (OK, cult) is good for me, what’s bad for my children, what chinuch I can or cannot give them, what’s a legit group and what’s a cult?

    Is learning Gemara all day good for my children or will it rob them of some zionist ideology?

    Remember that our “democratic” judicial system decided that R’ Meir Kahama HY”D was a racist, because he wanted the arabs to leave Eretz Yisroel en masse. But ahmad tibi Y”S and his cohort zoabi, et al can speak about pushing the Jews into the sea, joint a flotilla that tried to kill Jewish boys, etc and the courts are OK with it.
    Do we really want these “democratic zionists” to rule whether or not I can wear a gartle for davening? Wake up for netz minyan? Keep naiglevaser under my bed? Do kaporos with a chicken? What’s next – shechita, Bris Mila?
    We MUST be mispalel l’haavir memshels zadon min Haaretz.
    G’mar Chasima Tova

  4. This group may or not be a cult but it can be a scary precedent for the secular authorities in Israel to decide how parents should educate their children. Judging by the few details the article provides, I highly doubt a US court would get involved. Parents rightfully have broad autonomy in deciding how to raise their children, whether or not we agree with them.

  5. I’m not talking about the rest of this group’s hashkofos, but what’s wrong with covering up? Isn’t this the ultimate form of tznius?

  6. . Comment from Maier A
    Time October 5, 2011 at 2:00 PM

    People, we’re slidding down a very slippery slope.
    MY opinion – they’re nuts! Yes against Hallacha!
    Do we want an Israeli secular court to decide what group (OK, cult) is good for me, what’s bad for my children, what chinuch I can or cannot give them, what’s a legit group and what’s a cult?


    If a person wants to live in Israel (as an example) he/she is obliged to obey the civil laws of that country.

    A sovereign country is not a supermarket fruit and vegetable department.

    That is to say, its citizens cannot just pick and choose which laws they will obey and those they will reject because they do not suit their particular hashkafah.

  7. The danger of having a secular court with group is much bigger then having them around.If a court case is brought against individual members or the movements leader for the behavior alleged in this article I would agree but a suit against a movement is a recipe for future disaster.

  8. I myself, living here in Jerusalem, know very little about this sect, as IT IS NOT MY BUISNESS!!

    And you savvy news reporters think it is yours?!

    Beyond the shade of doubt – if I honestly felt that I could do something – even behind the lines – to straighten out the crooked members of this sect(as you have portrayed them)I would attempt to clarify and reclarify whom these people are, what triggered this movement to start in the first place, and where it went awry.

    The obvious reality is that this is well beyond me to do – an impossibility. There were, are, and always will be different sects, groups, and movements that act ostensibly in the name of religion. Those among them which deviate from proper Torah observance – whether to the right or to the left – DO NOT SURVIVE THE TEST OF TIME! Thus, this “new” sect, if it is indeed as vicious as you portrayed – will eventually disintegrate of its own accord.

    Giving publicity to their actions will invariably bolden their determination even more. If the reports of vicious conduct that you’ve projected are indeed 100% accurate without bias or exxageration (which all too frequently is NOT the case) and the movement is illegitimate – why do you need to adversely give it encouragement? You think you – as a website – can change them for the better? It’s no different than attempting to “douse” out an oil fire with water – you’ll only cause it to spread!!!

    What you will succeed in doing, though, is giving a new boost of enthusiasm to the antireligious elements of the general population, who will gleefully lick every word of your report – then turn it against ALL OF US indescriminately. Let us not forget how a free daily secular newspaper here in Israel posted a front page article several years ago of guys with beards and payos (call them neturai karta Rabbis if you wish) meeting with top gov’t officials in Iran. You think such publicity wasn’t designed to smear you and me as well?? (Well too bad – it did!)

    I warned you people already – You are playing with fire! Once you portray any sort of sanction of a secular court to intervene (even if, in this case, their motives are altruistic) you are invariably promoting a background for another “Emmanuel affair” to transpire – similar to the one we saw a year ago, R”L.

    I again warn you as I did previously – you are all playing into the hands of the Yetzer Hara! You’re starting off with a “kosher” whiff of proper concern; and then by contrast… Welprin doesn’t sound “that bad” anymore, Carter (yimach shmo) doesn’t sound “that bad” anymore, Biden “may not be that bad after all” etc…

    Yom Kippur is around the corner – I STRONGLY advise you news reporters to do TESHUVA once and for all! Tell the Yetzer Hara once and for all “WE are the ones in charge here – NOT YOU!!!”

  9. According to Halacha, no secular power – even, or shall we say, especially here in Eretz Yisrael has any right to interfere with religious matters. This is undisputable, and your comment should be deleted.

  10. To #6:
    Your use of the phrase “ultimate form of tzniyus” is inaccurate. If anything, it’s the opposite as it attracts many stares, chillul shem shomayim, etc. Is that “tzniyus”?
    That aside, after the chait of Adam & Chava, Hashem didn’t make Chava a burqa. Why not? Clearly this is not what Hashem wants. He wants us to take the middle ground, where we don’t stand out for being overexposed or overly dressed, thereby also standing out screaming to the world, “LOOK AT ME! I’M SOOO TZNIYUS!” That too, is called a lack of tzniyus. It’s the same with chasunas, cars, homes, etc. Use what you need to serve Hashem, be an example of “diracheha darchei noam”, and don’t stand out as anything but a kind, respectful, and upstanding human being al pi darka shel Torah. This applies equally to men and women.

  11. Slippery Slope, you are an official logical fallacy. One could say, for example, that it is a scary precedent for a court to punish parents for abusing their children as they have broad autonomy in how to discipline them.

  12. They named themselves Lev Tahor, but I don’t believe they deserve the distinction. I only refer to them as Bnos Burqua.

  13. “According to Halacha, no secular power – even, or shall we say, especially here in Eretz Yisrael has any right to interfere with religious matters. This is undisputable, and your comment should be deleted.”

    Dear Yonason,

    You are clearly, and seemingly deliberately, avoiding the issue of ???? ??????? ????.

    I, too, live in Israel and I find your argument totally specious.

    A person or a group of people living in a country – even in the State of Israel – simply cannot opt out of legislation that may not be to their personal liking.

  14. Live and let live. To each his own. I’ve been around and believe me there are many crazier and worse things we put up with.

  15. This will not be a precedent for them to legislate on other hal hike/hashkafik matters like many previous posters wrote.
    The court will decide if it is legal to belong to this cult or not- they’re nt gonna view it in a Jewish sense- are there ppl distorting Torah , etc. They are approaching it from a legal and safety side. Namely is it reckless and abusive for children to belong there, not altz Halacha, but altz safety. A parent cannot be negligent and reckless with their kids.

  16. from what i have read in the original article reb shlomo helbrans demands from his followers to wear the shawl which was worn in yerusholayim in the past
    it doesnt mention the burqa….

  17. Lev Tahor under Rabbi Elbarnes has nothing to do with this sect and in their community the women do not cover their faces at all. If people want to dress more tsniusduk than others, it should not be a reason to remove their children. It is no one’s business to tell them what to do. Do they rremove frei children from their parents for (un)dressing in untsniusdik clothing? Of course not, so it is just another Zionist anti Chareidi plot. I myself wouldn’t dress that way, but, I believe in religious freedom – that includes dressing in a way that others wouldn’t necessarily approve of.

  18. I live in Montreal and we here are aware of this cult. It is an extremely dangerous cult. The leader has a magnetic and perverted personality. He was not only expelled from Isreal but form willamsberg as well. While he lived here in Montreal, before the cult moved to the Larentians we forbad our sons from even greeting him in shuie as he has no respect for parents and boudaries.He cuts off men from their parents and wives and tes, he does force young girls to marry older men.

  19. Very impartial reporting. Well done, Matzav! It’s one of the reasons every time I visit this site it takes me months before I’m brave enough to do it again.

  20. To the one who lives in Montreal – How do you know all that? I visit there several times a year and I know the community well. No one there is forced to marry against his/her will and everyone is happy. If you Have nothing to do with them why don’t you just mind your own business and stop spreading slander and motsei shem ra.

  21. Pure chilul. The Torah warns us of not ‘adding to or decreasing or deleting’ any laws. This is copying from non-Jews, firstly. Secondly, it is definitely cult-like and makes a mockery to the non-Jewish world of Judaism and Torah. These people have problems. They just need some therapy! We really do need Moshiach, where life will be ‘super’ normal and where all problems and questions will be solved.

  22. My comment remains firmly in place. Yours – from a perspective of Halacha – may not! The issue here of “dina demalchusa” is no simple matter here in Eretz Yisrael; as, according to many poskim, perhaps even the vast majority of rishonim – the Land of Israel as defined in the days of the second temple always belongs collectively to the Jewish People.

    No single unit may claim sovereignty to it – regardless of military power and/or international acceptance.

    But that is not the issue here:

    The “law of the land” is halachically unable to interfere in religious matters. It is self evident that one who is capable of viewing only one side of an issue is unqualified to issue a universal ruling regarding it – no matter how much expertise he has on the side aquainted with. A secular Jew is simply not qualified to judge religious matters – neither legislatively nor judicially. Period.