Several Jewish families living in a small Guatemalan village said they have been asked to register with the municipality and to move out of town over the next few months, according to reports from a local paper and an Israeli website.
Jewish residents of San Juan La Laguna were asked to officially register themselves after a petition signed by 300 residents was presented against them. The Times of Israel reported that while the registry was set up in order to verify if the Jewish immigrants are in the country legally, other foreigners have not been asked to do the same.
The town with a population of some 10,000 has a Jewish community of 10 Jewish families, most of whom are new to the area.
The Guatemalan newspaper Prensa Libre reported that the Jews in the area, who are ultra-Orthodox, have been subject to ethnically-motivated slurs and violent attacks in recent months, including verbal abuse, the spreading of false accusations, and rock-throwing and a Molotov cocktail.
Misael Santos, a convert to Judaism who lives in the town said that residents posted photos of Hitler online and threatened to put their Jewish neighbors into cremation ovens.
“They asked us to get out of town because they said that we kidnap children, and then added to the fire by saying the town would be invaded by Jews,” Santos said.
The windows of Santos’ house were broken by rocks thrown at it, while a Molotov cocktail was hurled nearby.
After that, he asked for an urgent meeting of the city council, the Times of Israel reported.
According to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency news service, the Guatemalan newspaper reported that San Juan La Laguna’s mayor, Rodolfo Lopez, was presented with the petition calling on him to expel the Jews, which he told Prensa Libre he was planning to do.
“We, as a local authority, have nothing against the Jewish community,” Lopez told the Times of Israel on Tuesday. “But every community, and especially ours, as indigenous Mayans, has very special customs and traditions and we have to defend our rights.”
Residents have complained about some of the rituals practiced by the observant Jews, including using a public body of water as a ritual bath and making disparaging comments about immodest dress to tourists.
“There is almost every other religion here, and there have never been any problems. When they came, there started to be ill will,” the mayor told the Times of Israel.
Santos said he believes the reaction of his neighbors is a result of their lack of knowledge about his religious practices.
“I put myself in their place and perhaps they are right to feel scared because before we were two families and now there are 10. And seeing us with our traditional dress, which is black representing devotion and humility, in the streets, may cause fear,” he told Prensa Libre.
In a later telephone interview with the Times of Israel, Santos was reluctant to speak and said that the neighbors live together “very peacefully.”
“Some of us are foreigners, so they asked for ID,” he said, “but we are living very peacefully.”
Israel National News quoted Santos saying that despite the petition against them, his community has received support from other non-Jewish neighbors.
"Many people do not want us to leave, and have come to ask us not to leave. ... The fathers of my children's friends, for example. They are Christian people, who live by their values. Some even said jokingly that San Juan Bautista, the patron saint of the town, is Jewish, and if we are kicked out he would also have to leave,” he said.
News of the Guatemalan Jewish registry came on the heels of reports from Ukraine last month that Jews in the area of Donetsk were told to register themselves and their property and pay a special tax. The leaflets were later said to be a hoax and a provocation designed to cast political rivals as anti-Semitic.