Several days ago a hareidi-religious family from Beit Shemesh was arrested in Jordan after crossing the border without authorization. At the time, officials believed the crossing was accidental.
However, sources in Beit Shemesh told a different – and far more disturbing – story. In fact, they said, the family crossed the border intentionally, in an attempt to join “Lev Tahor,” a Jewish cult in Canada led by Shlomo Helbrans.
Helbrans has frequently been accused of convincing young followers to cut ties with their families, of encouraging men in his community to mistreat their wives, and of arranging marriages between children age 15 and even younger. Former followers have accused him of maintaining control through brainwashing and fear.
He has been repudiated by the hareidi community, and religious leaders in both Israel and America have issued warnings against his teachings and practices.
The Beit Shemesh family that tried to join him is led by parents who were not raised in the religious Jewish community, but became religious in adulthood. They joined the hareidi-religious community in Beit Shemesh and began raising six children there.
In recent years, the father of the family showed increasing interest in Lev Tahor. Sources who know the family say he was drawn to Helbrans’ ascetic lifestyle and extreme anti-Zionist views.
At some stage, the father withdrew his children from local schools and began teaching them at home. The family increasingly isolated itself from the surrounding community.
Relatives realized what was happening and obtained a court order preventing the family from leaving the country, in order to keep the father from sending his children to live with Lev Tahor and to possibly be married while still underage. Their fears regarding the father’s plans were confirmed when he attempted to smuggle his two oldest daughters to Canada last year.
The two girls were sent back to Israel by Canadian authorities.
Late last week the family made a second attempt, entering Jordan in hopes of flying from there to Montreal. They were not successful, but sources who know them say the “sad story” is not over.