Head of Israeli Pre-military Program for Teens Arrested for 'Cult-like' Sex Crimes

Court extended detention of Yosef Ohayon for a week on suspicion of having sex with minors, making threats and assault following an undercover police investigation

Aaron Rabinowitz
Aaron Rabinowitz
Ohayon entering the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court on Monday.
Ohayon entering the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court on Monday.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Aaron Rabinowitz
Aaron Rabinowitz

The head of an Israeli pre-military program for teens was arrested Sunday on suspicion of committing sex offenses against underage female students in the program. The Jerusalem Magistrate's Court extended his detention by seven days on Monday.

Yosef Ohayon, a Jerusalem resident in his 40s, heads the Arayot Yehuda (Lions of Judea) nonprofit organization, which runs a youth program meant to prepare students for their military service. Organization activities take place in large educational institutions in Jerusalem and the surrounding area. He is suspected of having relationships with female students in the program and exploiting his close relationship to them during program activities.

Ohayon was arrested following an undercover investigation, the police said. As part of the organization's activities, he contacted young women and lied about his military and professional history to gain the victims' trust, the police said in a statement. He is suspected of making threats, having sex with a minor between the ages of 14 and 16, and having sex with a minor between the ages of 16 and 18 while exploiting his position of authority.

During the court hearing on Monday, a police representative said Ohayon is suspected of assault and making threats. "The investigative findings reveal shocking and horrifying incidents, during which he exploited his position of power, presented a false picture of his supposedly glorious military past, carried out sadistic acts, and created a sort of cult where he was a god in those girls' eyes," he said.

At the start of the hearing, the police representative asked Judge Amir Shaked to bar Ohayon's wife from the courtroom, and the judge ordered her to leave.

Ohayon confessed to one of the charge of having sexual relations with a minor and denied the other charges, the police said in the hearing. The police still do not know how many incidents took place in total, but they suspect that they were numerous.

Noa Wiesel, Ohayon's attorney who is an expert in representing suspects in sexual offense cases, said that there are two complainants, one of whom confronted Ohayon recently and recorded the encounter on a hidden camera.

In his ruling, Shaked noted that Ohayon confessed to one of the charges and that the investigative materials provide a reasonable suspicion that he committed the crimes. The judge denied a request for a gag order on publishing Ohayon's name.

"The case is still under investigation, and I regret that the court allowed the publication of my client's name,' Wiesel said, "thereby harming the complainants, some of whom have already been exposed in the media and on social media. My client denies every one of the accusations against him."

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