Members of an ultra-Orthodox Jewish group were forced out of a village in western Guatemala after disputes with indigenous residents over cultural and religious differences.
- Lev Tahor expelled from Guatemalan village of San Juan la Laguna
- Lev Tahor, ultra-Orthodox Jewish sect, quietly moves to Guatemala
Misael Santos of the Lev Tahor community said the Jewish group started leaving San Juan La Laguna on Friday after the town's Elders Council voted to kick them out.
'This is not normal behaviour in a community that lives off of tourism.' - Antonio Ixtamer, resident of San Juan La Laguna
"We decided to leave because the Council of Elders does not want us," Santos said. "It's sad to leave, and there are people who like us here because when we left there were people who cried."
Santos said that there were 230 members of the Jewish community living in the lakeside village and that some had been in the town for six years. Others arrived earlier this year from Canada, where they face a child removal case.
Lev Tahor had moved from Ste-Agathe-des-Monts, Que., to Chatham, Ont., last November after the regional youth protection service took steps to remove 14 children. They began to flee for Guatemala one by one beginning in March.
- Lev Tahor wins appeal in child protection case
- the fifth estate | Rabbi Of the Pure Hearts: Inside Lev Tahor
- Quebec officials say many more Lev Tahor children could be at risk
The town's Elders Council voted last week to force the group to leave because they say some members of the sect have mistreated indigenous residents and tourists in the area.
Antonio Ixtamer, who lives in the community, said that several members of the group had upset residents because of their arrogant attitude.
He said several times members of the Lev Tahor community would go into stores and pay whatever they wanted for the products rather than the marked price. He said they also bothered tourists.
"On one occasion there was a tourist taking pictures of a hill and the Jews thought he was taking photos of them and they clashed," Ixtamer said.
"This is not normal behaviour in a community that lives off of tourism," he added.