After several rejections, the N1 team was received by members of Lev Tahor at their temporary home in Istocna Ilidza. Two members, Esther and Chayeh, spoke about their way of life, raising children but also about numerous accusations against their community. This group of 37 should leave Bosnia and Herzegovina soon, and they do not want to reveal their next destination, because they claim that they are constantly persecuted because they are different.
Esther has been a part of Lev Tahor since she was born. She says she does not want to know about other ways of life. They had a happy life in Canada. They looked after their business, she says, they produced their own food, and then the social services knocked on the door because of the children.
“They came, they came, they came, trying to make us send our children to their public schools. But we know that's not the way we want to raise them. It is not written that way in our holy book, to learn various things like that man came from an animal, from a monkey. I will not allow my children to learn such things,” said Esther.
Life in Canada was getting ever harder, Esther said. Discrimination has become unbearable. She claims that three families have been summoned to court.
“We knew what that meant, we knew the next step was to take our children away and then we decided to leave,” Esther added.
When asked if it is possible to leave the Lev Tahor community, she answered, of course, despite the fact that there are numerous accusations from former members that they had to escape from that cruel environment, saving their own lives. One of those who made such accusations is her cousin.
“He woke up one day and left. Nobody stopped him. If you want to go, go,” Esther said.
The women of Lev Tahor N1 spoke to say they know the names of those who, as they claim, are spreading lies against them. There are many reasons for this and they say it is also because of the way they practice the faith.
Chayeh is a Belgian who joined Lev Tahor at the age of 24. She admits that her husband is in America, awaiting trial on charges of kidnapping a child. But, she says, it was a matter of family conflict, a series of circumstances and a misunderstanding.
“He is still awaiting trial, he has no right to bail, as if it is a danger to the community, for the United States, he has been there for 2.5 years, without good reason, he didn’t commit any crime, he only helped save the child from his mother and her friends who abused him,” Chayeh stressed.
Now, they say, they are being persecuted wherever they go. They claim that they had the worst experience in Kurdistan. Due to numerous accusations against their community, they were interrogated for days.
“We tried to get in touch with the Red Cross, human rights organizations, but they took away our phones, kept us trapped with very little food, just enough to survive, without beds, showers, clothes to change. When they let us go, the children already had fungus on their feet for the first time in their lives. On Saturday afternoon they carried us to the airport, holding our arms and legs, taking our children from our arms, and today the children live in fear, they talk about it, my daughter hurt her arm because she clung to me,” Chayeh said.
They would not say where they will go next. They said they trust in the faith to show them the right path. And while women are mostly preoccupied with children during the day, men are mostly in prayer.
The men pray in the house next door. Apart from tables and chairs, we did not notice any other furniture. The children are playing with commercial toys, and the women have prepared food for us, and what is known in Bosnia as Kljukusa – a traditional Bosnian dish made of grated potatoes combined with flour, oil, eggs, finely chopped onion and spices.