Jan 31, 2016

Counterculture icon Love Israel near death

Eric Wilkinson
KING 5 News
January 30, 2015

BOTHELL, Wash. -- Despite the sadness hanging over the Bothell home, there is a joy that fills it. It's a joy rooted in love.

Friends and family of Love Israel began celebrating his life Friday, as they prepared for his death. The 75-year-old is losing his battle with cancer, and doctors say his days are few.

"He taught us love is the answer. We're all one family. He tried to tell the whole Earth we're all one," said his wife Honesty.

It was 1968 when Paul Erdmann, a TV salesman, came to Seattle, spreading his message of God, love, peace and unity. Six people moved into the home on Queen Anne Hill, followed by many more.

At its height, the following grew to about 300 people and expanded to a commune in Arlington. There were only a small number of blood relatives. but they all considered each other part of one big family, taking on "virtue names" like Justice, Confidence and Patience. 

"People ask us, how do I join the family? You don't. You just wake up one day and realize you're in it," said his son Justice.

Justice recalled his childhood, some of which was spent in a Mongolian yurt with no electricity in the foothills of Cascades, and the transition to mainstream America.

"Every girlfriend you had, the parents were like, 'You're dating the son of a cult leader!'"

They laugh off cult comments now, saying they were simply misunderstood by most. After all, it's one thing to say we're all brothers and sisters on this planet. It's another to actually live your life that way.

"It was fear of the unknown when we were growing up," said Justice. "They didn't know what to make of it. Now people think it's cool."

Over the years family members have gone their separate ways, due in part to the loss of their Arlington property to financial issues. A core group have always stayed together, however.

Love's wife Honesty has stayed by his side for 47 years. She says it's hard to see her husband so sick, but her love is alive and well.

"Every morning I say, 'Tell me you love me!' And he still does."

The family's numbers have grown to about 100 between Bothell and their property in eastern Washington, which includes a winery. They hope to have a memorial placed at Queen Anne's Parsons Gardens Park, a focal point for them, the Israelites, in the 1960s and 1970s.

They say they're stronger than ever. And despite the loss of their patriarch, Justice says their love will never die.

"This gift, this truth that he gave to us, that's not going away."


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