Israel arrests polygamist cult leader


JERUSALEM (JTA) — A Tel Aviv polygamist cult leader living with at least 17 women and his 38 children was arrested on suspicion of abuses ranging from enslavement to rape.

Goel Ratzon, who is reported to have up to 32 wives and 89 children, was arrested Monday; a media gag order was lifted Thursday.

Ratzon reportedly has been collecting wives since 1993. The "family" lives in an apartment complex in southern Tel Aviv.

The women and children were forced to abide by a rulebook that forbade the women from talking to other men, contacting their families, dressing immodestly, eating meat or smoking. 

Police were concerned that the women would commit mass suicide when Ratzon was taken into custody. They questioned and detained 17 of the wives and the children, who met with social workers and psychologists. Some were transferred to homes for abused women, according to reports.

Ratzon, 60, never officially married any of the women that he calls his wives. Police learned of his cult in 2000, but social workers determined that the children were well fed, clean and clothed properly.

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