Alleged Cult Leader Charged With Enslavement, Abusing Women

A man accused of leading a polygamist cult was charged yesterday with rape, sodomy, enslavement, familial sexual abuse and several other offenses against his 21 "wives."

Prosecutors also requested that the Tel Aviv District Court keep Goel Ratzon in jail until the conclusion of legal proceedings against him.

"The indictment exposes a lifestyle that is shocking to thought, imagination and morality," the Tel Aviv district prosecutor wrote. "The charges are filed given the defendant's actions over the years against his 21 wives, whom he took and enslaved, in contravention of all norms, and in ways that fit the darkest times in human history."

Ratzon, 60, allegedly subjected his 21 partners and 38 children to strict disciplinary measures, but claims they chose to live with him.

Prosecutors said Ratzon subjugated the women to satisfy his financial and sexual desires for two decades.

Ratzon allegedly claimed to possess supernatural powers that enabled him to cure diseases, destroy objects, grant blessings and cast curses. Prosecutors said these claims were intended to make him appear to be an omnipotent guru and strengthen his control of the household.

The indictment says Ratzon dissuaded the women from maintaining familial and social ties while "humiliating and trampling their dignity, inhibiting their free will, abusing them, robbing them and enslaving them."

Prosecutors said Ratzon kept the women confined to his Tel Aviv compound, where they were told that their goal was to have children. The indictment alleges that Ratzon's 21 wives gave birth to 49 children.

In addition, Ratzon allegedly treated the women like his property, and made them get tattoos of his name and image, change their first and last names, and gave their children names glorifying him. Ratzon also allegedly made his children kiss his feet when he entered the home.

Prosecutors say Ratzon would often separate mothers from their children as well as siblings from each other in order to tighten his grip.

Ratzon also allegedly set strict behavioral rules, including forbidding the women from working outside the home, except in order to care for the elderly or advance the household.

Ratzon allegedly forbade them from taking detours on the way to work, wearing clothing he deemed immodest, watching television and using the Internet.

They also were told not to eat meat or communicate with men over age 13.

Ratzon also allegedly made the women appear cheerful every time they left the house together, and made them not wear sunglasses, so he could tell what they were looking at.