Israeli polygamist and cult leader Goel Ratzon was indicted Sunday on multiple charges, including with rape, sodomy, enslavement, sexual abuse within the family and several other offenses.
The indictment outlines Ratzon’s lifestyle in a way “that will rattle the mind, the imagination and question human morality,” the prosecutor wrote in the document filed at the Tel Aviv District Court.
“The suspect enslaved and appropriated his 21 wives for many years, in acts which contradict social norms, in a way which was common during the darkest times of human history,” the prosecutor added.
Ratzon, 60, allegedly subjected his family of 21 ‘wives’ and 38 children to strict disciplinary measures, but has claimed that the women and children lived with him on their own accord.
Police began investigating Ratzon in June 2009 after receiving a complaint about abuse from one of the women.
He is considered by his companions to be the savior (Goel in Hebrew) of the universe, and is attributed godly and supernatural abilities. Many of the women have his name and portrait tattooed on several parts of their bodies.
Goel Ratzon accused of raping minors
The indictment is divided into nine chapters, and includes dozens of clauses describing a large number of incidents.Cult FAQCultFAQ.org: Frequently Asked Questions About Cults, Sects, and Related IssuesIncludes definitions of terms (e.g. cult, sect, anticult, countercult, new religious movement, cult apologist, etcetera)Plus research resources: articles, books, websites, etc.Listing of recommended cult experts, plus guidelines to help select a counselor/cult expertCultFAQ is provided by Apologetics Index, publishers of Religion News BlogApologetics Index: Apologetics Research Resources on Religious Cults, Sects, Religions, Doctrines, Etc.Comments & resources by ReligionNewsBlog.com
The State asked the court to place a gag order on the investigation, saying that it includes “intimate, sensitive and shameful details, which have the power of humiliating any person.” One of the reasons for the request, the State Prosecutor’s Office explained, was the “fragile mental state of the women”, who are defined as “victims of a difficult trauma of many years of slavery.”
According to the indictment, Ratzon created “a status of an omnipotent with healing, destruction and cursing capabilities”, through which he possesses full control of his wives’ lives, desires, thoughts and performance.
According to the State Prosecutor’s Office, Ratzon had many diverse ways to influence his wives, causing them to depend on him completely. He allegedly instilled a distorted reality, leading them to believe that their entire being, essence and physical and mental life derive their existence from him.
The indictment describes the “family” setting Ratzon built around him: “The defendant captured the women in a human group structure with the nature of a pseudo-family revolving around the ritual of his image, turning the birth of his children into a supreme goal the wives must aspire to, all with the aim of glorifying him while serving him and providing all his needs.”
The State went on to say that Ratzon abused his wives by scorning them, while ridiculing their personality and independence and trampling over their self-image and self-value.
He kept them away from any external social connection, including their families, damaging their judgment and free will and enslaving them to provide his economic and sexual needs, the indictment said.
Last week, the Tel Aviv District Police said that most of Ratzon’s wives had framed him when they were questioned and would testify against him in the trial. The police believe they have a well-established case against the man, claiming that most of his wives have “become sober”.
“If formally charged, Ratzon faces a maximum 16-year prison term for each of the slavery and rape charges,” TIME magazine wrote last January.
‘Messiah Who Enslaved Women’ Faces Charges
But his defence lawyer Gabai Mendleman told Sky News he insists he has done nothing illegal.
“They chose to come back to me every day, to live with me. No-one forced them to. That’s what my client says,” he said.
Those who know Ratzon say he has a chilling, hypnotic hold over his women and others who come too close to him.
Private investigator Asher Weitzman sent female agents into the family, only to have one of them almost fall under Ratzon’s spell.
“What he did was he grabbed her face, in a nice way, not a rough way and he said look into my eyes,” he said.
“She looked into his eyes and she says that from that moment she felt like she was losing control.”
Mr Weitzman and the Israeli media reported Ratzon to the police a decade ago, but it has taken that long for authorities to investigate him and bring him to court.
The following excerpt comes from an opinion article, published one week after Ratzon’s arrest last January:
Opinion: A test for our democracy
The supreme test or tolerance for democratic pluralism is its ability to digest the anomalous, bizarre, and freakish as long as it does not cause intolerable damage, and certainly if it’s not illegal.
Israeli laws pertaining to all cults, including Goel Ratzon’s cult, are lacking. In fact, to this day there is no legislation that explicitly addresses the definition of cults, and to a large extent authorities deal with them only if they are suspected of a specific violation of criminal law, rather than because of their very existence as cults. In order to improve and boost the legal ability to thwart the dangers inherent in some cults it would have been better to draft new legislation. However, a committee that looked into the issue for almost five years during the 1980s merely recommended that existing laws be adapted to address the cult phenomenon.