A haredi family of eight is back in Israel, after they illegally crossed into Jordan around midnight Wednesday night as part of a plan to join an extremist haredi cult in Canada, and were arrested by Jordanian soldiers.

The parents, both in their late 40s and from Beit Shemesh, were arrested by Eilat police after crossing back into Israel Thursday afternoon and will be brought before the local magistrate’s court on Friday for a remand hearing. Their children, three girls between the ages of eight and 17 and three sons aged nine to 13, were placed in the custody of social services.

Insp. Lior Ben-Simon said that police received a call a little after midnight Wednesday from the IDF, who told them that a family of eight was being held by the Jordanian army at a military facility on the Jordanian side of the border, after they had crossed into the country near the 101 Km. Inn in the Arava. Over the next few hours the IDF and the Foreign Ministry worked with their Jordanian counterparts to return the family to Israel, and by midday they were crossing the Rabin border into Israel.

Ben-Simon said the family was carrying a GPS, a large amount of cash, passports, binoculars and hiking shoes, and appeared to have planned out the journey for some time.

He described them as being part of the “Taliban-like” haredi extremists in Beit Shemesh, and that they face charges of illegally crossing into an Arab country and violating a court order.

The second offense deals with the fact that earlier this year members of the parents’ extended family attained a court order against them, banning them from flying out of Israel in order to prevent them from joining the Lev Tahor (“Pure Heart”) cult in Canada. The relatives feared that if they were able to leave Israel, the parents, who are reportedly members of the cult, would join the group in Canada and would have to turn over all of their belongings, while the daughters of the family would potentially be forced into early marriages.

Ben-Simon said the father had tried to get a visa to Canada in the past but had failed, so they planned to go to Jordan and stay there until they received visas. He said they did not yet have airline tickets, adding that they did not have extra, “non-haredi” clothes in case they wanted to try to be less conspicuous while in Jordan.

Lev Tahor is run by Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans, an Israeli who moved to the US and then Canada where he established his puritanical community, which consists of approximately 50 families, in a small town in Quebec, 100 km. from Montreal.

Reports of violence within the sect, including child beatings, forced marriages and divorces, underage marriage, sexual exploitation and polygamy, have been made by several media outlets about Lev Tahor.

The group has been rejected by mainstream haredi society which has waned against the Lev Tahor sect and Helbrans.

Jeremy Sharon contributed to this report.

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