Israeli Polygamist Cult Leader Goel Ratzon Sentenced to 30 Years

Ratzon, who was convicted of rape and similar charges, made his 21 'wives' believe he was the savior of the world and had supernatural powers.

Revital Hovel
JTA
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Goel Ratzon at a Tel Aviv courtroom, October 22, 2014.
Goel Ratzon at a Tel Aviv courtroom, October 22, 2014.Credit: Moti Milrod
Revital Hovel
JTA

Goel Ratzon, a 64-year-old cult leader convicted of rape and other sex offenses against six women and girls, was sentenced to 30 years in prison on Tuesday. Most of the women were minors at the time of the crimes; some were his own daughters.

Ratzon was indicted five years ago after a complaint by one of the 21 women he considered his wives. He fathered 38 children with them but was never officially married.

On Tuesday, The Tel Aviv District Court also ordered Ratzon to pay a total of 330,000 shekels ($87,600) to five of the victims. The sixth did not receive compensation because she did not testify and had received a home from Ratzon, the court ruled.

The court also ordered that one of the women be paid 140,000 shekels — a sum she had paid Ratzon, who had fabricated a debt he said he owed. For this transgression, Ratzon was convicted of fraud under aggravated circumstances.

The conviction handed down last month was for offenses including aggravated rape, sex offenses involving a family member, sodomy and indecent assault.

Ratzon made the women believe he was the savior of the world and had supernatural powers. He also alienated the women from their families and only allowed them to speak in public areas of their home.

Ratzon’s son Yigal said the sentence was excessive. “I had expected seven [years]; my dad also expected seven,” he said.

The defendant’s lawyer, Revital Kotzer, called it a harsh sentence that would be reviewed before other legal steps were considered. The prosecutor, Dalia Abramof, called the punishment appropriate.

Ratzon was acquitted of a slavery charge; Abramof said the prosecution had not yet decided whether to appeal. The slavery charge was the first of its kind in Israel; the crime entered the criminal code in 2006 as part of efforts to address human trafficking.

Since Ratzon’s indictment, two other defendants in different cases have been convicted of slavery.

Ratzon was arrested in January 2010, about a year after Channel 10 broadcast an exposé on the cult. According to the indictment, he considered himself the “exalted leader” with godlike powers. He treated the women as if they were his personal property; their sole role was to serve him, whether financially, sexually or otherwise.

The sentencing Tuesday was delayed several hours when Ratzon failed to arrive in court after what the prison service called a computer glitch that failed to trigger Ratzon’s transfer from a Be’er Sheva prison.

The sentencing was handed down by a panel of three judges headed by Judge Nurit Ahituv.

Click the alert icon to follow topics:

Comments

SUBSCRIBERS JOIN THE CONVERSATION FASTER

Automatic approval of subscriber comments.
From $1 for the first month

SUBSCRIBE
Already signed up? LOG IN

ICYMI

Charles Lindbergh addressing an America First Committee rally on October 3, 1941.

Ken Burns’ Brilliant ‘The U.S. and the Holocaust’ Has Only One Problem

The projected rise in sea level on a beach in Haifa over the next 30 years.

Facing Rapid Rise in Sea Levels, Israel Could Lose Large Parts of Its Coastline by 2050

Tal Dilian.

As Israel Reins in Its Cyberarms Industry, an Ex-intel Officer Is Building a New Empire

Queen Elizabeth II, King Charles III and a British synagogue.

How the Queen’s Death Changes British Jewry’s Most Distinctive Prayer

Newly appointed Israeli ambassador to Chile, Gil Artzyeli, poses for a group picture alongside Rabbi Yonatan Szewkis, Chilean deputy Helia Molina and Gerardo Gorodischer, during a religious ceremony in a synagogue in Vina del Mar, Chile last week.

Chile Community Leaders 'Horrified' by Treatment of Israeli Envoy

Queen Elizabeth attends a ceremony at Windsor Castle, in June 2021.

Over 120 Countries, but Never Israel: Queen Elizabeth II's Unofficial Boycott