For the Love of Family
Photo Essay from:
Seatle Post Intelligenser
March 3, 2003

All Photo Credits: Meryl Schenker
Special to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Article below photos.

For the Love of family
The glue that has held the Love Israel family together for 34 years is common spiritual beliefs. But its culture has evolved from deep faith and dedication community.
Morning spirtual meeting

During the Monday morning spiritual meeting the family assembles to talk and pray. Love, center, is flanked by his wife, Honesty, and Serious. They end with a chant. Says Love, "The one song we all know is one chant. We can all do that. We are saying, 'God, here we are, and we want this to be our prayer to you. A prayer beyond words that everything good happens to us and everybody we love. We don't even know what to ask for, so we are going to do this chant instead.'"
Crossing generations

Three generations interact easily in the Love Israel family. Almost every activity and party has a wide range of ages. The boundaries that usually exist between generations in mainstream American culture are vitually non-existent in the Love Israel family.
Easter king for a day

The Israel family's culture, which has evolved over the 34 years of its existence, is marked by special events and traditions. During one of these, the annual Easter egg hunt, one lucky hunter finds the "Golden Egg" and becomes "king for a day" at the next golden egg party, which the adults throw for their children. Before the start of the 2001 party, Center is carried by his brothers to Meditation Knoll, where he will relinquish the throne to next year's king. The brothers are, from left, More, Brotherhood and Clean.
Family council meeting

Joshiah gives Fortitude a chiropractic adjustment after a family council meeting in the sanctuary, a large room that serves as both Love Israel's living room and a place of frequent gatherings. Joshiah has been a family member for seven years. "My parents thought I was crazy," he says, "but this has been the happiest time of my life." Fortitude who has been with the family 22 years, managed the family restaurant, The Bistro, before it was sold several months ago.
Cleaning up

After pruning a cherry tree, Strong, left, and Order, right, attempt to burn the rain-soaked branches with the help of Won, wearing hat, who has been in the family for 26 years. Won, a professional entertainer and comedian, leaves the ranch to perform. Strong and Order, who were raised on the ranch but now live in Arlington, come back for the Saturday morning meeting and to help with chores.
Coffee roaster

Steadfast roasts shade-grown coffee in a small workshop at the ranch. "Stedy" came to the family in 1970 when he was 22. His coffee can be purchased at the Sno-Isle Natural Foods Co-op in Everett.
Joshiah and Commitment

Commitment protects Joshiah from the rain as they leave his cabin at left. When these structures were first built, they served as outhouses for visiting parents. Now they serve as sleeping quarters. Joshiah is a member of Love and Honesty’s household, where he eats his meals and showers and which is just a few steps from his cabin.
Ease's baby-to-be

Ease, 27, shows off her baby-to-be at the annual Arlington Garlic and Music Festival. Ease and her partner named their baby boy Real. The family's festival, now in its 14th year, is a three-day event the second weekend in August.
Ammishaddai and son Peace

Ammishaddai and her 13-year-old son, Peace, relax in their home. After looking for people to gather with, Ammishaddai joined the family at age 20 and has been a member for more than 21 years. All of her five children have been raised on the ranch. She operates New World Graphics, a graphics and Web design business, from her home.
Serious Israel

Serious Israel, right, spokesman for the Love Israel family, shares a light moment with a new friend.

Tuesday, March 4, 2003

Faith and community bind the Love Israel family


I started hearing rumors about the Love Israel family soon after I moved to Seattle in 1996.

Family council meeting
See more photos from Meryl's time with the Love Israel family.

"Oh," people said to this newcomer, "do you know about that cult that lives in the Queen Anne section of Seattle?"

Having always been interested in alternative lifestyles and communities, the questions occasionally piqued my interest. Eventually, in 1999, I would have the opportunity to pursue my curiosity.

What I found was a Christ-based group, living communally near Arlington, that had somehow survived since 1968 and figured out how to maintain their values in today's world. They originally came together as a family based on "spiritual revelations" rather than blood.

Love Israel is their leader, although they strive to achieve consensus in their decision-making processes. For most of the family, building relationships with each other and their children is the most important aspect of their lives.

My involvement began when I went to a restaurant called The Bistro in Arlington, which happened to be owned and operated by the family. They were friendly and modern, and didn't seem "cultish." Rather than being isolationist, they believe in being an active part of the community.

A few months later, I met Forgiven Israel at his organic vegetable stand in Pike Place Market in Seattle and told him of my interest in meeting and possibly photographing the family.

The next day the phone rang. It was Love Israel, and he invited me for Thanksgiving dinner.

As I drove up the gravel driveway, I was astounded by the beautiful place in which these people live. And, I was amazed at how much they seemed to like each other: There was a feeling of true friendship.

I knew I wanted to learn more about the family. I told Love that I wanted to dedicate at least one year to photographing the family -- to really get to know them. More than three years later, I am still photographing life in the Israel family.

To me, it's important to document a group of people that could live together for more than 34 years and who strive to reverse the isolationism of the American family. Most communal groups that formed in the 1960s disbanded long ago. And though the Love Israel family is struggling to keep their property (last week they filed for Chapter 11) they plan to stay together as a family.

For more information go the Israel family Web site,

Meryl Schenker can be reached at

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