JERUSALEM, Nov. 3, 1999 - Israel today deported two American Christian women who police suspected of planning violent acts to hasten the Second Coming of Christ during the millennium year.
The women - identified as Sister Karen and Sharon Peterson - were put aboard an El Al flight bound for New York, police spokeswoman Linda Menuhin said. She did not know their hometowns.
The two were among 21 members of two Christian groups that Israel arrested last week. This is the third deportation from the group, which included 18 Americans, two Britons and an Australian.
Twelve Americans were deported Friday, two Britons were deported Thursday, and three Americans were deported Monday. The Australian was released when she showed police that she already had an airline ticket home.
The only remaining American is Brother David, a former Syracuse, N.Y., trailer park operator who came to Israel nearly 20 years ago. Police say he will be deported when there is room on a flight.
The Christians, who were members of groups called House of Prayer and Solomon's Temple, lived on the Mount of Olives, across from the Old City of Jerusalem. They said all they did was provide housing to needy Christians and guided tours around the Old City.
But police say they were suspected of laying the infrastructure for apocalyptic groups to take root on the Mount of Olives, where tradition says that Jesus will arrive in the Second Coming. Israeli police have been on alert for Christian fanatics who may believe they can facilitate the Second Coming in the millennium year through violent acts or mass suicide. Attracting Extremists and Eccentrics A recent FBI report warned of threats of violence by extremists to mark Jesus' 2,000th birthday. It noted that Jerusalem was especially susceptible to millennium cults.
The latest arrests were the third time in little more than a year that a special millennium unit of the Israeli police force has cracked down on suspected doomsday cultists.
Israel deported 14 members of the Denver-based Concerned Christians in October 1998 on suspicion they planned to commit mass suicide at holy sites in Jerusalem.
Members of another group - 25 Irish and Romanian Christians deported earlier this month - said they were a legitimate religious organization dedicated to helping disabled people. They accused Israeli police of treating them roughly before they were deported. Police said the group was "an extreme Christian cult."
In that case, Irish officials said the group was not dangerous. Mainstream Christian leaders and Jews involved in interfaith dialogues have accused the police of heavy-handedness, saying many of the targets have been harmless eccentrics.