Israel Expels Cult Over Suicide Fears

The London Times/October 12, 1999

Israeli authorities have expelled 26 Irish and Romanian members of the "Concerned Christians" cult, including seven children, from the port of Haifa, fearing that they were planning a mass suicide during millennium celebrations.

The group, the second of its kind allegedly exposed by a special team of Israeli police assigned to monitor "Doomsday cults" this year, arrived at Haifa on Sunday buts was immediately detained by police.

All the adults and several of the children were believed to have physical and mental disabilities. They had twice been turned down for visas to visit Israel this year but managed to get to Haifa without being detected. Police sources said that they were not allowed to set foot on the Holy Land, where they were believed to be planning to kill themselves on the eve of the new millennium.

Although they looked "like winos", the ten Romanians and 16 Irish nationals were carrying about $300,000 in cash, said port officials. They insisted that they were on a pilgrimage. They had four caravans with them. All were ordered to return by ferry to Cyprus last night because, although described by Interior Ministry officials as "well meaning" and "harmless" to others, there remained fears that they planned to kill themselves before a "Second Coming of the Messiah."

Tzvika Anshedorf, commander of Haifa port, said: "This is the first time in my career that people have been barred from entry to Israel because of a concern over future suicide." Earlier this year 14 members of a group also calling itself the "Concerned Christians" were rounded up by the police unit assigned to monitor the activities of extremist groups over the millennium and expelled. There is no link between this organization, from Denver, Colorado, and the latest group to have been expelled from the Holy Land.

But police and interior ministry officials are concerned that "lunatic groups" might infiltrate Israel and make good on plans for a "millennium atrocity", one possibly aimed at provoking a real-life Armageddon with an attack on a Muslim shrine such as the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

The leader of the Denver group, Monte Kim Miller, 45, is believed to be hiding in Britain. He has hinted that he plans a massacre for the millennium and that he would die on New Year's Eve, to be resurrected three days later.

Brendan Scannell, the Irish Ambassador to Israel, said he had "expressed concern" about the latest episode. He said the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin was aware that members of the Pilgrim House Foundation, based in Inch, Co Wexford, had attempted to enter Israel, despite being refused visas.

But the strong reaction to the arrival of a fringe group has highlighted the problem of whether it is possible to distinguish "lunatic" groups from genuine worshippers, and whether doing so affected the right to visit holy places all over Israel. So far the authorities have not been accused of being too heavy [handed in dealing with what is expected to be a total of four million visitors to Israel and the Occupied Territories next year.

Another, non-violent group of Christian fundamentalists has already taken up residence in flats on the Mount of Olives. Lead by a brother David and Sister Sharon, both Americans, of the Bethane Community, they say the world will end on December 31, this year.

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