Faith and community bind the Love Israel family

Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Mar. 4, 2003

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

“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,

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