One year after police raided the Tel Aviv headquarters of a suspected polygamist cult that involved some 40 children and 20 women, welfare authorities say they are still dealing intensely with the fallout and rehabilitation process of the cult members as they return to live a normative life.
According to information published Tuesday by the Welfare and Social Services Ministry, the 20 wives and 40 children of the yet-to-be convicted cult leader Goel Ratzon continue to receive a wide range of welfare services, including constant psychological monitoring.
“The Goel Ratzon affair is a clear sign that we have a policy of zero tolerance to cults and other groups that prey on vulnerable women and children,” Welfare and Social Services Minister Isaac Herzog said in a statement Tuesday.
“It also raises awareness to the dangers of belonging to such cults.”
The minister said that in the coming months a specially formed committee to look into the phenomenon of cults and their long-term effects on members would present its findings and hopefully improve the rehabilitation process for those involved.
A spokeswoman for the ministry told The Jerusalem Post that the prosecution is still gathering evidence on Ratzon, who could be convicted of sexual abuse and rape of a minor.
The information released Tuesday regarding the fallout of this unique case showed that in addition to standard social welfare assistance, the women and their children are being given help in finding public housing and employment, access to legal aid and intensive therapy to reconnect with their extended families.
Former cult members have also received financial support to repay debts accrued while in the cult and funds to pay for the removal of the cult’s signature tattoo, which depicts their grey-haired leader and was inked in very visible places on most of the women’s bodies.
Social workers have also helped the children to acclimatize to the mainstream education system and financed psychological treatments for them.
• Goel Ratzon’s cult: 17 women, 60 children and a climate of absolute obedience
• Coming out of the cults: Clinical research has identified specific cult-related emotional problems with which ex-members must cope during their reentry into society.
• How to select a cult expert