Tel Aviv Cult Leader Goel Ratzon Convicted of Sex Crime Charges

The 64-year-old polygamist, first indicted in 2010, was found guilty of aggravated rape and other sexual offenses, but was acquitted of enslavement charges.

Revital Hovel
Revital Hovel
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Goel Ratzon in the Tel Aviv District Court on Monday, September 8, 2014.
Goel Ratzon in the Tel Aviv District Court on Monday, September 8, 2014. Credit: Dror Einav
Revital Hovel
Revital Hovel

The Tel Aviv District Court on Monday convicted Israeli polygamist and cult leader Goel Ratzon of numerous sex offenses, including rape and committing sexual offenses against family members, some four and a half years after he was first indicted.

The 2010 indictment outlined Ratzon's lifestyle in a way "that will rattle the mind, the imagination and question human morality," according to the document filed at the Tel Aviv District Court four years ago. "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 indictment read.

On Monday, the 64-year-old was convicted of carrying out sexual offenses against six of the seven victims who testified against him, some of whom were his daughters, and most of whom were minors. He was found guilty of aggravated rape, sexual offenses against family members, sodomy and indecent assault.

The court however acquitted him of the precedent-setting charge of enslavement. The verdict was delivered by a closed-door panel of judges headed by Nurit Achituv, Miriam Diskin and Raanan Ben Yosef.

Maayan, one of Ratzon's wives, levelled harsh criticism at the court and the fact that Ratzon was acquitted on the slavery charge. "There is no law and there is no judge in the State of Israel. I was in complete slavery. If the State of Israel had not released me, I would have been serving a life sentence," she said.

Ratzon was accused of subjecting his family of 21 'wives' and 38 children to strict disciplinary measures, but claimed that the women and children lived with him on their own accord.

Some of the measures Ratzon imposed on his family were found in a rule book that included:

1. No women shall marry nor shall any woman attack another, either verbally or physically. Fine: NIS 2,000, to be paid into the family kitty.

2. No woman shall question another about her whereabouts. Fine: NIS 100.

3. No conversation is permitted in rooms other than the living room. It is forbidden to talk nonsense. Fine: NIS 200.

Police began investigating Ratzon in June 2009 after receiving a complaint about abuse from one of the women. He was considered by his companions to be the savior (Goel in Hebrew) of the universe, and was attributed godly and supernatural abilities. Many of the women had his name and portrait tattooed on several parts of their bodies.

Goel Ratzon in the Tel Aviv District Court on Monday. Credit: Dror Einav

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