Pot-bellied ‘messiah’ Goal Ratzon puzzles Israelis with his 32 wives

Wives give their children, all 89 of them, versions of his name: Saviour

TEL AVIV — They tattoo his image on their arms. They give their children, all 89 of them, versions of his name: Saviour. And at night, they – his 32 wives – wait expectantly to be chosen by him to share his bed at one of the four apartment buildings in Tel Aviv where they live together.

Last week, Goel Ratzon and his wives allowed a local documentary film crew into their home and revealed to Israeli society their unusual, tightly knit “extended family.” Some Israelis reacted with jealousy. Others with disgust. But most were simply mystified.

How does Mr. Ratzon, an unemployed, pot-bellied, white-haired man almost 60 years old, succeed in making a host of young attractive women dedicate their bodies and lives to him? And how in the world does he get away with it?

Mr. Ratzon answered the first question to the camera as he sat in the back of a van next to one of his wives, while another one drove.

“I am perfect,” Mr. Ratzon explained. “I have all the characteristics that a woman wants.”

An undercover private eye, hired by parents of one of the wives and interviewed by Channel 10 filmmaker Nesli Barda, said that he has special powers. She met his wives and pretended she wanted to become one of them. They “approved” her and arranged a meeting. When they met, he told her he would hypnotize her. “Once I looked into his eyes, … I couldn’t look away,” she told Ms. Barda. “I was under his spell.”

His women, however, say they choose to be with him of their own free will.

“These are strong women,” Ms. Barda said. “My impression is that they enjoy the communal living and sisterhood. He is more of a symbol, which gives them a reason to be together.”

In front of the camera, the women kiss and cuddle their shared husband. They comb his hair and drive him from house to house.

“You should see how he arrives, like a king,” said one male neighbour, adding, “I’d love to be in his shoes.”

His wives call him a “messiah,” and one even prepared a video of him with his image and the words “Ruler of the World.”

What is clear is that he is the ruler of their lives. The women adhere to strict rules in their food, dress and relations with others. They must dress modestly and they cannot eat meat, smoke or touch anyone but him and their children. They cannot speak to men or even look at them. One wrote a text message saying she would take her own life if anything happened to him.

Messiah or not, is it legal to have so many wives?

“This issue was checked in the past,” said a spokeswoman for the Tel Aviv district police. “When parents of the girls call us to go, we send a patrol car because we must. But they are not married to him and they are not minors, so there is no way to legally prevent the girls from staying with him.”

Neighbours say that hasn’t deterred angry worried parents from trying to get back their daughters.
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– Source: Pot-bellied ‘messiah’ with 32 wives puzzles Israelis, Orly Halpern, The Globe and Mail (Canada), Feb. 21, 2009 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

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This post was last updated: Thursday, February 26, 2009 at 2:52 AM, Central European Time (CET)