A 42-year-old teacher from Netanya was arrested overnight Friday on suspicion that she had beaten and starved her 10-year-old son.
The woman told investigators the abuse was her way of “educating” the boy.
The woman, who teaches at a high school in Hod Hasharon, told investigators that she does not believe in the formal education system and has therefore been homeschooling her son since September.
She said her son would get into fights at his school and was caught stealing candy from a supermarket, and therefore she decided to “educate” him at home by hitting him with a carpet beater.
The teacher who was arrested Friday on suspicion of abusing her 10-year-old son is a member of a cult which preaches for stern disciplining methods outside the formal education system. Police are checking the suspect’s connection to the group.
A man who is familiar with the cult said the suspect is known there as “the prophet” and has described the group’s leader as “the seculars’ Elior Chen.” [RNB: a reference to a sadistic cult leader currently on trial].
It was later discovered that the boy was not registered in any school since December. He and his older brother were turned over to social service while their mother’s remand was extended by three days. Her partner, who was also present in the apartment, was arrested for failing to report violence and obstruction of justice. He was released to house arrest following his interrogation.
Police suspect that the teacher’s behavior is explained by her membership in the “Ithaca” cult. A source closely familiar with the group explained that it preaches for strict education of children and their removal from formal educational establishments. “It’s absurd that she teaches and makes a living from formal education. How did they let her become a teacher?,” he said.
The source further noted that in the cult the suspect is known as “the prophet” and her partner is a senior member in the group, “which has destroyed the lives of dozens of families after their loved ones followed the cult leader blindly and ended contact with their relatives.” He further noted that the suspect has not been in contact with her family for more than three years.
It was revealed that the children’s father does not reside in Israel, while his mother pays his alimony payments. Nevertheless, she has not been able to see her grandchildren since the mother joined the cult, despite a court ruling arranging visiting rights.
Police say they are checking whether the abuse and removal of the boy from the school was part of the cult’s activities.