Israeli cult leader Goel Ratzon arrested for allegedly keeping harem of women and fathering dozens

New York Daily News/January 15, 2010

Israeli police arrested a suspected cult leader in Tel Aviv believed to have kept a harem of women and fathered dozens of children with them.

Goel Ratzon, 59, is being held on suspicion of rape, slavery and incest. Police believe the self-styled healer, who had flowing white hair and a beard, brainwashed the women into staying with him in squalid, overcrowded apartments.

Following a seven-month undercover investigation, police raided three apartments where they found 17 women and 39 children, according to the London Daily Telegraph.

The women in the group were not allowed to be with men, eat meat, smoke, drink alcohol or dress immodestly, according to a rulebook found in one of the living quarters. They would be fined if they argued, gossiped or asked Ratzon where he was going. The children, who all bear Ratzon’s first name, which means "savior" in Hebrew, were expected to kiss his feet when he visited, according to the Telegraph.

His emotional hold on his women was reported to be firm. Police have kept him away from TV cameras for fear that he might send secret messages, ordering the women to hurt themselves. Two women were arrested along with Ratzon on suspicion they cooperated with him or witnessed his alleged crimes.

The other 15 women were taken to homes for abused women, along with all their children.

Ratzon made no secret of his unusual living arrangements, and was featured in a documentary broadcast last year, where he claimed to have fathered 89 children by more than 30 women.

In the documentary, the women were seen to be wearing tattoos of Ratzon’s name and face. When asked why young, attractive women would be part of his group, he replied, "I am perfect. I have all the characteristics that a woman wants."

A police spokesman told the Telegraph that detectives were trying to piece together the nature of the family relationships, and were determining whether or not the children were subjected to sexual abuse.

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