The government must create comprehensive legislation to combat the phenomenon of
cults in Israel and provide a clearer definition of what constitutes cult
activity, a report published Monday by a special Ministry of Welfare and Social
Affairs task force has recommended.
Authored by the team of professionals
that dealt with the fallout of Israel’s largest cult to date – that headed by
Tel Aviv polygamist Goel Ratzon – the 48-page report focuses on four main areas:
preventive action, therapeutic intervention, legislation and government
involvement.RELATED:Cabinet okays 1% cut to ministry budgets
In its conclusion, the report calls for the government to
formulate legislation that would curtail the activities of these groups, create
a clearer definition as to what is a cult, and provide guidelines for all
relevant government ministries to pool resources and work together.
subject of cults is a complex issue,” commented Minister of Welfare and Social
Affairs Moshe Kahlon in a statement. “This phenomenon is indeed marginal, but
its effects are far-reaching: It affects families, adults and
The creation of the task force followed the January 2010 raid
on Ratzon’s compound by police and welfare officials after a six-month
undercover operation that gathered enough evidence to charge the 60-year-old
with rape and incest. Since then, a special Welfare Ministry unit has been
tasked not only with providing rehabilitative treatment for the cult leader’s 17
wives and 39 children, but also with creating a comprehensive program and
recommendations for national policy to tackle between 80-100 other cult groups
A spokeswoman for the Welfare Ministry said the report
was the first comprehensive look into how Israel should deal with its cults, and
that the task force looked at a wide range of sources from around the world.
Currently, no legislation exists to prevent cult activity here, although
polygamy is illegal.
The authors recommend defining a cult as a group
that converges around one person or idea and adopts thoughtand
behavior-controlling methods. Cults, they said, encourage emotional dependency,
loyalty, obedience and subordination to the leader. The leader is a person who
takes advantage of the members to promote the cult’s goals and causes emotional
damage and physical, economic and social detachment from other members of the
cult, their relatives and the surrounding community.
In addition to
creating legislation and defining cult activity in Israel, the report also
recommends increasing public awareness of the phenomenon and even holding
workshops for teens so they understand the dangers of becoming
Its recommendations also include the creation of a national
body that will immediately intervene with cult activities, and the establishment
of a national hotline for the public to report on such groups. The National
Insurance Institute should also be involved in providing rehabilitative services
and financial aid to those able to free themselves from cult activity.
well as its recommendations, the research also provided detailed guidelines for
social workers, psychiatrists, psychologists, educational professionals and
other professionals who might find themselves working with former cult
The guidelines divide the process into two parts: focusing on
preventing vulnerable individuals from joining cults or curtailing their
involvement in the early stages before they are too drawn in, and rehabilitative
assistance and therapy for those who have fled or been rescued from these
Ministry of Welfare and Social Affairs director general Nachum
Itzkovitz said that for victims of cult activities and their families it is a
“deeply rooted crisis that requires the involvement of the government and
Israeli society to help tackle this phenomenon and find ways to provide the
correct assistance and preventive aspect.”
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