Tel Aviv ‘saviour’ac­cused of en­slav­ing women in cult-like harem in cramped apart­ments

Cape Breton Post - - CLASSIFIEDS -

JERUSALEM (AP) — The women tat­tooed his name and por­trait on their bodies and gave their chil­dren his name — Saviour.

They spoon-fed the bearded, one-time healer as if he were royalty, brushed his shoul­der-length white locks, sent him text mes­sages when they were ovu­lat­ing and slept with him at his bid­ding.

They turned over wages and wel­fare pay­ments to him and lived in cramped, run­down Tel Aviv apart­ments with the chil­dren they bore him. Ac­cord­ing to po­lice, he fa­thered some of his own daugh­ters’ chil­dren.

The man, 60-year-old Goel Rat­zon — whose first name is He­brew for “Saviour” — is now sit­ting in a Tel Aviv jail, sus­pected by po­lice of en­slav­ing a cult-like harem of at least 17 women and 37 chil­dren. Rat­zon, who’s lived this way for two decades, de­nies any wrong­do­ing, his lawyer says.

Rat­zon’s al­leged crimes and un­con­ven­tional life­style have gripped Is­rael and be­come news­pa­per and talk show fod­der.

How he man­aged to lure so many young women and live this way so long in full view of au­thor­i­ties re­mains a mys­tery. While cult leaders like Jim Jones, who led hun­dreds of fol­low­ers in a 1978 mass sui­cide in Jon­estown, Guyana, claimed mes­sianic sta­tus, Rat­zon did not.

“I’m not their Mes­siah, I’m not their saviour. I’m just good to them,” he said in a rare in­ter­view to Is­rael tele­vi­sion last year.

Po­lice, how­ever, said they swooped down on Rat­zon when the chil­dren were at school be­cause they were afraid their moth­ers might hurt them if they were at home at the time.

Ac­cord­ing to po­lice, his lawyer and t e s t imony from the women, Rat­zon kept tabs on his “ex­tended fam­ily” through closed­cir­cuit TV, and fined them for vi­o­lat­ing rules that in­cluded mod­est dress and a ban on unau­tho­rized tele­phone calls.

“He doesn’t live like you or me. He lives dif­fer­ently. And the fact that the women ac­cepted it and were part of it gave him the le­git­i­macy that it was OK, that it was good for them,” said his cour­tap­pointed lawyer, Shlomzion Gabai.

Po­lice broke up the harem on Jan. 12, tak­ing the chil­dren and women to var­i­ous shelters. Po­lice in­ves­ti­gat­ing him on sus­pi­cion of en­slave­ment, rape and in­cest have un­til Fri­day to charge him or else his de­ten­tion runs out, Gabai said.

In an Is­raeli tele­vi­sion doc­u­men­tary aired last year, Rat­zon said the women were drawn to him be­cause he was “per­fect” and had “all the qual­i­ties that a woman wants.”

But Asher Wiz­man, a pri­vate in­ves­ti­ga­tor who said his com­pany was hired by two sets of par­ents to ex­tri­cate their daugh­ters from the clan, told The As­so­ci­ated Press that Rat­zon preyed on trou­bled young women.

Some of his women in­vited sis­ters, cousins and friends to join the harem. Rat­zon would go trawl­ing for oth­ers in two busy Tel Aviv malls, Wiz­man said.

He said a pri­vate in­ves­ti­ga­tor he sent to in­fil­trate the harem was badly shaken af­ter her first en­counter with Rat­zon.

“He looked her in the eye” for about 90 sec­onds, “and she felt like she was los­ing con­trol, it was a kind of hyp­no­sis,” he said.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tor, who spend a month in­side the clan, re­ported to Wiz­man that the women “talked about Rat­zon as if he were a god and the big­gest hon­our is to spend the night with him,” he said.

Now pried from his grasp, the women seem di­vided over whether they were en­slaved or liv­ing an ex­traor­di­nary way of life with a unique kind of man.

Dvora Re­ich­stein was taken into the fold four and a half years ago when she was 22, un­mar­ried and preg­nant with an­other man’s child. From day one, she said, life with him was “ like liv­ing in a prison” — but she had nowhere else to go.

“To­day, I’m free to wear jeans, talk to my par­ents, meet friends, buy my­self a cup of cof­fee without get­ting Goel’s per­mis­sion,” said Re­ich­stein, who had a “Goel” tat­too peek­ing out over her black turtle­neck in a photo pub­lished in the Ye­diot Ahronot daily.

“I’m not the same woman who just a month ago sent him an ovu­la­tion SMS say­ing, ’ I want to re­mind you that I’m ovu­lat­ing, and if it works out, I’d very much like to be with you and carry your seed in my womb. Love you for­ever, your wife-slave,”’ she wrote in an ac­count of her life with Raz­ton pub­lished by Ye­diot Ahronot.

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