Ex-defense Official Held for Posing as Rabbi, Raping Women

A retired senior Defense Ministry official allegedly raped and defrauded women for 15 years, claiming to be a rabbi who could cure their problems, police said yesterday.

Police have been investigating Nissim Aharon, 59, of Rishon Letzion, who allegedly convinced women to become religiously observant while demanding hundreds of thousands of shekels for his "supernatural curing powers."

The details of the investigation were released for publication yesterday.

Aharon, who until a few years ago had served in a senior position at the Defense Ministry's acquisitions department, was arrested on Monday. Yesterday, the Rishon Letzion Magistrate's Court extended his remand by six days.

Police say they have collected testimonies from several women who claim Aharon raped them. Based on the testimonies, Aharon would call women in distress, convince them becoming religious would solve their problems, and mention a senior Jerusalem rabbi. A few days later he would call from a private number, pretending to be the rabbi. Police say Aharon would tell the women he had curing powers and that they needed to touch him as much as possible to "absorb the holiness."

"The women would come to this alleged rabbi and do whatever he wanted them to do," said Avi Mantzur, an investigative officer with the Central District Police. "They and their families would unknowingly join a small community that behaved very much like a sect, and give the suspect thousands of shekels in gifts and money. Some women gave him 70 to 80 percent of their monthly incomes."

One woman told police that when she was 14, her mother brought her to Aharon's house, where he molested her.

A senior defense source told Haaretz that Aharon was known at the ministry for his unusual behavior, and agreed to leave after a disciplinary hearing over a female soldier's complaint. Aharon receives a Defense Ministry pension, as well as a military pension stemming from his earlier post at the Air Force.

The investigation has caused concern within the ministry, a source said, noting that such things have occurred before, and that the ministry is fully cooperating with the police.