The police identified on Monday the leader of a cult that they suspect forced as many as 10 women into prostitution and kept control of them by supplying them with drugs and alcohol.
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The suspects allegedly told the women they had to have sex with non-Jewish men “to save the Jewish people and expedite the redemption,” a police statement said.
Among the eight people arrested in the case, the police identified the leader of the group as David Dvash, also known as David The Best, 60, from Bat Ayin, a community in the West Bank south of Jerusalem.
Dvash, well known in the settlements and environs, is the father of 15 children by two women; he's married to both of them. He's a musician who is deeply immersed in Hasidic spiritual matters.
A second suspect is Gad Zarad, 47, from Ashkelon. The police suspect him of pimping women and of supplying the drugs with which the group controlled the women.
Lawyers for the two men filed an insanity plea and on Sunday asked the court to send the two for observation.
The eight suspects also include two women: Dvash's 40-year-old wife and a 39-year-old woman from Jerusalem. No information about the other four suspects was yet available.
Superintendent Arik Mordechai, the investigations officer in the Judea and Samaria Police central unit, said the two women in the group recruited the women to be pimped. He said the group recruited five to 10 women, some of whom appear to be minors. The police have involved the welfare authorities, he said.
Four months ago the Judea and Samaria District Police launched an undercover investigation after a complaint was filed by a woman who said the cult was exploiting its female recruits.
Police say the cult, which operated all over the country, induced women to believe that the Jewish people would be redeemed by having sex with non-Jews.
The cult leaders allegedly took money from the men to have sex with the women and tried to pressure the women to become Orthodox through their sexual relations with the non-Jewish men.
The johns included, among others, Palestinians from the West Bank and foreign workers living in Tel Aviv.
The Kiryat Arba-Hebron Local Council said in a statement that more than six months ago welfare officials had heard rumors of certain violations involving Dvash and his wife. But when family members were questioned, they categorically denied any wrongdoing and rejected any intervention by the authorities.
“Despite this, the welfare department handed over the matter to the Israel Police,” the statement said. “The Judea and Samaria District Police conducted an investigation into the matter and the couple was arrested this morning. The couple’s children are being taken care of by the welfare department which is working in cooperation with the administration of the Social Services Ministry’s Jerusalem district.”
“If the suspicions turn out to be true, then I call on the authorities to prosecute to the full extent of the law," said Kiryat Arba-Hebron Local Council Chairman Malachi Levinger. "We as a civilized society will not tolerate these or similar offenses."
Best made news some years ago when he sued a local insurance company. The insurer had produced a commercial involving a character, played by the prominent Israeli actor Moshe Ivgi, called David The Best. Dvash claimed that the campaign improperly used his image and won a settlement of hundreds of thousands of shekels.
Also on Monday, Goel Ratzon, 64, who 4 1/2 years ago was charged with numerous counts of rape and other sexual offenses involving many women he'd married and his daughters, was convicted in Tel Aviv District Court. He was acquitted of a charge of enslavement. Ratzon had lived with 21 wives and 38 children.