Israeli living with 17 women arrested for enslavement, rape
Police launched undercover probe into Goel Ratzon in June 2009 after receiving complaint of abuse.
A Tel Aviv man who has been living with 17 women with whom he fathered 38 children was arrested on Monday on suspicion of enslavement, rape, extortion by threat and sexual assault of minors, among other charges, police said after a gag order was lifted on the case.
Police launched an undercover investigation into the suspect, Goel Ratzon, in June 2009 after receiving a complaint about abuse from one of his "wives."
Ratzon, 60, allegedly subjected his family to strict disciplinary measures, but has claimed that the women and children lived with him on their own accord.
More than a year ago, Channel 10 aired a documentary on Ratzon and his many wives, which gained widespread attention and criticism after he said that there had been several attempts at collective suicide after some of the women thought he was going to leave them. Also in the film, some of the women said they would commit mass suicide if anyone tried to harm their leader.
Wary of mass suicide, police were accompanied to his home by social workers and psychologists on Monday so as to avoid hysteria and any attempts at mass suicide after his arrest.
Police confiscated a rule book by which Ratzon forced his family to abide. The women were forbidden to communicate with men, be in physical contact with their biological family, eat meat, smoke, drink alcohol or dress immodestly.
Ratzon 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 tattooed his name and portrait to several parts of their bodies.
The names of every one of Ratzon's children include his own first name. For instance, one of his sons is called Avinu Ha-Goel (our father the savior) and he has a daughter named Tehilat Ha-Goel (glory of the savior).
Son of Goel Ratzon talks
Goel Ratzon's son Yigal said following his father's arrest on Thursday that he does not believe the allegations against his father are true, even if the court decides to charge him.
"There have been times in the past when the court has been wrong and then retracted an indictment" he said, "and I believe that is what will happen in my father's case."
"Everyone has always gone after my father and tried to bring him down because they didn?t approve of his lifestyle," he said. "Now they've finally found a way to do it."
Yigal, who was born into a conventional family, "I remember the times when we were a normal family with only one mother and one father," he said, "but i don?t remember when things started to change and my father started to pick up other women."
"Every house has its own rules," Yigal commented on the rule book found in one of his father's houses which stated the amount of money each violation of the rule the women were fined. "I don?t know about a rule book, but if it did exist then i am curious how they manage to run the household in good financial stability, how did the children go to school with a new bag and books every year?"