The suspiscious spirituality of the Twelve Tribes

Original source: La sospechosa espiritualidad de las Doce Tribus

also found in this site: La sospechosa espiritualidad de las Doce Tribus

translation provided by

El Pais 12/31/2006
Mikel Ormazabal – San Sebastian
Translated from the Spanish (Cheryl)

This is how this group lives that emulates the first believers and does not educate their children so they can “maintain purity.”
In San Sebastian there lives a mysterious tribe on a farm on the high mountains of Ulia. It is a sanctuary of the twelve tribes in Spain, a spiritual organization whose members try to live in the manner of the first disciples of Messiah.

They say to practice hospitality and to celebrate and to be warm and friendly and their arms are always open to receive visitors. Nevertheless, they close the door on newspaper reporters! “We don’t want to talk to the press.” “It is not important to us what they say about us. If someone wants to get to know us, they can look at our publications.” This ends the testimony of a community member of San Sebastian who fails to provide his name.

He has a thick beard, a pony tail that falls on the back and wears a leather belt inserted in the front. It is midday in this heavenly place of San Sebastian. The mansion-farm of the twelve tribes rises to the summit of Mount Ulia, an enclave separated from any large city – maybe there are neighbors in their immediate vicinity, or perhaps a winery and a Basque school. “It is a hidden treasure in the countryside where we can live in peace,” say the occupants. The bearded young man prepared to leave the house in a Mercedes van. His companion cut tree trunks with an electric saw and various children ran about the property while inside the house they prepared for celebration, like they do every Friday night, the celebration of Shabbat or Sabbath.

They live detached from reality and apparently an investigation initiated in France against the group uncovered the fact that they do not educate their children and that some describe the twelve tribes as a cult. We are a simple people, comprised of single people and families with children, large and small that live together in harmony and unity, in surroundings full of order, respect and human affection say their members. “I felt trapped because of the twelve tribes.” “I knew them when they sold their products in a market in the town of Guipuzcoa.” “They were so kind and nice, so generous…” “They seemed very nice.” “They gave us cookies and a leaflet of theirs.” “In a few days we were living in the Ulia house. We were accepted by the community and they baptized us by immersion, like long ago.

Thus began the new life of Ne’eman, an ex-member of the twelve tribes. It is a fictitious identity because he does not want to be exposed by the organization, and his name is in Hebrew, because within the group everyone adopts a Hebrew name. His account of 5 plus years spent in the community is a series of regrets and remorse that always ends with the same exclamation: “How could I fall like this.” “It is a cult of total rules and regulations because they alienate their members. You have no liberty to verbally express yourself, your subordinate 24 hours a day and you cannot question anything.” “They live under a type of collective hypnosis that takes away their capacity to make decisions,” assures Ne’ eman. The twelve tribes communities are distributed all over the world. They have communities in the United States, Canada, Brazil, Germany, England, France and Australia. Their presence in Spain is reduced to a rural house in San Sebastian e Irun (Guipuzcoa) where 50 people live together according to two former members.

The followers of the twelve tribes do not watch television, neither do they listen to the radio, not do they read newspapers. Their contact with the outside world is minimal. Unity is the sign of their identity. Their standard of life is inspired in Leviticus, one of the books of the Old Testament. They are devoted by the Jewish tradition, and seek to follow a tribal life like the first believers in Yahshua, including the type of clothing that they wore. They work from sun up to sundown, practice circumcision, and do not send their children to public schools. They are home schooled. Their members have an explanation on this matter: “We took our children out of public schools so we can home school them, because we realized that everything that we were doing was going to result in vain if we allowed our children to be influenced by the lack of respect and the immorality of the world.”

In their communities “nothing enters that is foreign or dirty or can contaminate them; they maintain purity.” The boys work with their fathers in the countryside and the girls toil at sewing. Their family teaches them to read and write, basic mathematical rules, always trying to conserve intact the moral virginity of the youngsters. According to the testimony of several former members, the children are whipped with a balloon stick on the hand or on the buttocks because of disobedience or lack of respect toward their parents.

The Education Department of the Basque government feels it is not its assignment to control these people (twelve tribes members) but since it is a matter of a few people, that today is here and tomorrow in another location in Spain or of the world. The educational authorities consider it impossible to introduce this group to the public educational system because of their void decision to integrate into society. A spokesman for the twelve tribes expressed it like this: “It can take letters in the matter? Yes, but..”

The name Yadid is not the real name of the other former member of the twelve tribes when he fled from San Sebastian almost two years ago. “When you become a member, you leave behind what they call your old man. When they baptize you, you renounce all of your material possessions and whatever contact you may have with your family and friends.” Little by little they immerse you in their ideology until they succeed in reprogramming your mind.” “You are going to affect strongly your former life and develop a pseudo personality that allows you even to think and to act without liberty.” “The internal functioning of the twelve tribes is a typical example of a cult. They insist that they are a brotherhood, but there is a religious leader in a position of authority perfectly established.” “Underneath the outward appearance of a peaceful life dominates their fondness of ecology and biological nourishment, self-sufficiency and spirituality which is hidden within a framework subtly designed to cancel the person,” assures Yadid. “Hateful and jealous revenge are foreign to our form of life say the elders and the literature of the twelve tribes.” In their unspoiled place of San Sebastian they have created a cottage industry to cultivate produce from their large vegetable garden and to produce pieces of artisan craftsmanship that they market in a business called Common Sense which they manage in an old section of the city. They conceal the number of persons who live in the community. The twelve tribes have little contact with their neighbors: they are peaceful and never have created a problem,” says a woman who lives next door. The police have no evidence that they (the twelve tribes) have ever caused any incident.

The attorney general’s office of San Sebastian has not received any police reports, neither is there proceedings against members for refusing to send their children to public schools or practice circumcision, reports the chief public prosecutor of the provincial audience.


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