Israeli dad of 40 kids from 17 women held

Goel Ratzon, a 59-year-old cult leader from south Tel Aviv was arrested during police raids on two addresses in the city’s Hatikva neighbourhood following a seven-month-long undercover investigation.

His 17 ‘partners’ were detained for questioning and later taken with their children into temporary protective care by the Ministry of Welfare and Social Services.

The investigation was launched by Tel Aviv police’s Central Unit in July 2009, when welfare services received information over alleged “sexual offences within the family,” police said. The offence carries a 16 year maximum prison sentence. The authorities are interpreting “slavery” in this case to mean “psychological slavery,” resulting in total control by Ratzon of the women and children who lived with him in several different apartment complexes.  

Following concrete intelligence, an unprecedented inter-organisational effort was launched, involving dozens of police detectives, 150 social services employees, and central district state prosecutors, who concluded that sufficient evidence existed to prosecute Ratzon. He had been under suspicion for long and welfare services are facing intense criticism.

During earlier efforts to accumulate information on the group’s activities at kindergartens attended by the children, it was found that they were well dressed, well fed, and equipped for school, which made any legal action difficult. 

An amendment to the anti-enslavement law, which prohibits anyone to “hold a person in conditions of slavery, including sexual slavery,” enabled the authorities to act this week.

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