Neighbors who lived near Goel Ratzon in south Tel Aviv’s Hatikva neighborhood told The Jerusalem Post this week that he was revered as a guru-like saint by his 17 women partners and their 60 children.
Ratzon banned all of the women who lived with him from communicating with men – including their own brothers – and demanded absolute obedience, the neighbors added.
“They were his slaves,” one neighbor said.
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Police say Ratzon meted out financial penalties of hundreds of shekels to the women for the smallest of transgressions, such as “sitting on the stairs.”
“It’s like a state – I have to uphold my principles, order and laws,” Goel said during a Channel 10 documentary made about him last year.
Some neighbors told the Post that Ratzon had used hypnosis techniques he learned while traveling in India to bring about the blind worship he received from the women.
But other neighbors said he merely preyed on the insecurities of vulnerable young women from unstable backgrounds.
“The moment you look at him, he broadcasts tranquility into your eyes,” Efrat, one of the women who lived with him, said during the documentary.
In the film the women can be seen showing the camera large tattoos bearing Ratzon’s face and name on their arms and neck. All of the children conceived by the women and Ratzon are named after him, like Tehilat Ratzon (Ratzon’s Glory), one of his daughters, and Goel Goeli, one of his sons.
The women usually dressed in an extremely conservative manner to ensure no part of their body was exposed.
“He’s the messiah everyone has been talking about. When people find out, this country will shake,” one of his adherents said in the film.
“I’m not their messiah, I’m simply good for them,” Ratzon said in the documentary.
Goel’s House Rules
Goel Ratzon maintained tight control over every aspect of life in his housing complexes. He distributed a rule book to the women in which he laid out his laws and the financial penalties that would result from any transgressions. Below are a few of the rules.
Any woman who speaks in a pretentious manner to another woman will be fined NIS 2,000
No woman will ask Ratzon where he is going and what he is doing. A violation of this law will result in NIS 200.
Idle chatter is strictly forbidden, and conversations between women can only take place in the living room. This law carries an NIS 2,000 penalty.
Arguments between women will result in each party to the dispute being fined NIS 2,000.
Laziness and sitting around the house will be met with an NIS 200 fine.
No woman may ask another woman where she is going, unless it is to ask for groceries. A violation of this law will result in an NIS 200 fine.
Police zero in on 1 of 17 ‘wives’ in cult leader rape probe
The investigation of a suspected cult leader accused of raping and enslaving scores of women took a dramatic turn on Friday after one of his alleged victims gave indications that she may agree to cooperate with authorities.
A., one of the 17 women, gave a statement to investigators Friday morning. Police came away from the session encouraged that A. may be willing to step forward as the central prosecution witness in the case against Ratzon.
Prosecutors hope to issue an indictment against Ratzon within the next 10 days.
Police started an undercover investigation of Ratzon in June 2009, when one of his wives came to a welfare office and said the household was the scene of criminal acts, including rape and enslavement. Police opened the investigation under the 2006 Slavery Law, legislated to combat traffic in women. The decision to launch the investigation had to be made by State Prosecutor Moshe Lador, since dozens of minors were apparently involved.
One of Ratzon’s wives cooperated with the police, providing them with the evidence necessary to carry out the arrest. Police devoted substantial resources to the investigation, including audio and video surveillance placed inside his homes.
During police questioning of A., investigators played surveillance tapes said to be of Ratzon committing the crimes of which he is accused in his apartment.
Police also played for A. video footage and pictures of Ratzon while committing the alleged acts, prompting her to burst into tears.
“After what I saw [on the tapes], I’m done with being gullible,” A. said from her home on Friday. “I can’t bear the thought that these things happened. I personally did not know that these things were done until the voices on the tape were played for me. I’m finished with Goel.”
Ratzon’s women speak of their love for ‘special’ man and caring husband
One of Goel Ratzon’s ‘wives’ claimed yesterday his arrest was motivated by revenge and hostility toward the sect’s way of life.
“There are quite a few people who wanted to take revenge, because Goel is a celebrity,” she said.
“There are a several people who don’t like our way of life and they invent stories, like the rule book – which was only a joke, but everyone now seems to believe it. You’d have to be crazy to believe that women were fined for those things,” she added.
She refuted the allegation against Ratzon, saying, “I don’t know any of these things; I haven’t seen anything in my house or anyone else’s to support the accusations.”
Several of Ratzon’s wives explain why they found comfort in his arms. One of them said she had a complicated life: at a young age she was very ill and suffered a permanent hair loss. From the age of 10 she has been bald and became a laughing stock at school.
After a few treatments from Ratzon she felt safe in his arms and she fell in love with him.
Welfare officials call this the biggest cult-busting operation ever in Israel
“Nothing like this has ever happened before in Israel,” Menachem Vagashil, deputy director-general of the Ministry of Welfare and Social Services exclaimed Thursday, referring to the Tuesday morning raid and subsequent arrest of 59-year-old cult leader Goel Ratzon of Tel Aviv.
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, Vagashil, who headed the social services side of the six-month undercover investigation, outlined how the social workers and experts worked painstakingly to prepare for every eventuality that could take place on the day of operation, which police codenamed “Geula Me’Ratzon” (“Redemption by Choice,” a pun on Goel’s name, which means “savior” in Hebrew, and Ratzon, which means “desire”).
In order to deal with a variety of outcomes, Vagashil assembled a team of some 150 social workers, child welfare officers, who are used to working with the prosecution, investigators, who are trained to talk with young children, and others. He also hired Prof. Mooki Lahad, an expert in stress prevention from Kiryat Shmona’s Stress Prevention Center, and Prof. Nati Laor, an expert in psychiatric trauma for adults and children.
He said Ratzon’s 17 wives and 60 children are all currently undergoing therapy and treatment, utilizing techniques that have been used in similar situations abroad.