Members of Jewish sect leave Guatemala village after disputes with residents

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GUATEMALA — 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.

Misael Santos of the Lev Tahor community says the Jewish group started leaving San Juan La Laguna on Friday after the town's Elders Council voted to kick them out.

"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.

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 behavior in a community that lives off of tourism," he added.

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