If you drive an hour and a half west from Sydney, you’ll find a cosy cafe marked by a faded yellow and mahogany sign. The words ‘Yellow Deli’ are written in a cursive, Bohemian-inspired script.
The corner-side establishment resides at the beginning of Katoomba’s main street. Katoomba is a small but bustling town, flanked by the Blue Mountains.
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Out of 892 Google reviews, Yellow Deli has amassed an average score of 4.6 stars, with hundreds of patrons commenting on the cafe’s tree-house like ambience and Middle-Earth exterior, worthy of a local tavern in a Grimms’ Brothers fable.
“The food came quickly and was mouth-wateringly delicious. Served in baskets with the coffee in yellow mugs. I had the tofu burger and I just admit it was sublime,” writes one guest.
“Love the decor and feel of the deli, food was wonderful and the drinks (green juice and proper chai tea) were excellent and the staff are 10/10 definitely a must do in Katoomba,” shares another.
But beyond the rave-worthy Reuben sandwiches, the cafe is run by an international cult, the Twelve Tribes, and the allegations lauded against the organisation quickly derail the fairy tale.
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Who are the Twelve Tribes?
The Twelve Tribes originated in 1972 Chattanooga, Tennessee and was founded by Elbert Eugene Spriggs off the back of the Jesus People Movement. According to the Apologetics Index, they have roughly 2000 – 3000 members in 50 communities over nine countries including Australia, the US, Canada, Japan, Germany and France.
They devoutly follow the teachings of the Bible and refer to Jesus by his assumed Hebrew name, Yahshua. Their name is a reference to the book of Acts and is based on their belief that the Twelve Tribes must “earnestly serve God day and night” (Acts 26:7) and live in accordance with the values established in Acts in order to bring about the return of the Messiah. This includes living in a communal environment and observing the Sabbath (the day of rest from Friday to Saturday evening).