Five space workers just up and decided not to return to Earth. Instead, they built their own colony and founded a society based on the Rastafarian ideology. Only two remain alive by the time Case and Molly visit Zion. They're contacted by Wintermute to help Case and Molly on their mission. And they agree to, although they're uncertain of Wintermute and his motives.
The Elders demonstrate a certain type of freedom that seems lacking in other places of the novel. Armitage is betrayed by his country, Molly by her employers when she was a meat puppet. Wintermute tries to control the fates of just about everyone in the novel. That just goes with the territory when you're stuck on earth and the folks in power control all the information.
The Elders of Zion decided to do away with all the power and betrayals on Earth and start their own free state. However, this freedom comes at the price of their bodies being severely weakened by the harshness of space living. Alas, you can't win 'em all.