The Jerusalem District Court decided on Thursday to release more grisly details
of the indictments issued the previous day against three members of a religious
cult based in Jerusalem and Tiberias.
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Nine members of the cult, a
polygamous family, were arrested last week. Three men were taken into custody,
including the cult’s leader.
Six women, along with 15 children, were
placed in shelters across the country.
Due to a gag order preventing
publication of any details of the case, journalists were not given access to the
complete charge sheets against the three men. Instead, the court released a
heavily edited version.
Journalists criticized the decision on the
grounds that the public had a right to know details of the case.
Noam Sohlberg later ruled that parts of the charge sheet should be published, in
part to help victims of similar cults and their families.
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prosecutors requested that the judge give a more detailed summary of the charge
sheet, which would give more details of the offenses against the victims,”
Sohlberg wrote in his ruling on Thursday.
The details released do not
reveal the identities of the three defendants or provide any details on the
victims, the judge noted.
The full charge sheet is still under a gag
order, as are details of various items of evidence.
The judge said,
however, it was now possible to release details of the acts of violence, sexual
offenses and acts of abuse and humiliation that the main defendant and the two
other men allegedly perpetrated in the years the cult existed.
sheet includes details of a series of offenses, including slavery, abuse of
minors, false imprisonment, sex offenses and severe violence.
following details were released by Sohlberg in the new summary of the charge
sheet: The first defendant, an Israeli citizen and Jerusalem resident, set
himself up as a member of a hassidic sect and the spiritual descendant of a
renowned leader of that sect, who had been chosen to spread the teachings of the
To fulfill that role, the defendant lived as the
“husband” of several women, with whom he had several children. The defendant
treated the women as servants, living with them as a “family” in several
apartments in Jerusalem and Tiberias.
Over the years, the defendant lived
with six women as part of this “family.” He changed the names of some of the
women, and had children with some of them, according to the charge
To make the women accept their status as members of his “family,”
and to accept and participate in their lives with him and the other women, the
defendant adopted the persona of someone chosen as a great spiritual and
The defendant claimed to have supernatural and mystical
Whenever a new woman was brought into the “family,” the
defendant at first behaved very gently toward her. He spoke about his “special
gifts” and demonstrated his powers and his charisma until the woman agreed to
live with him and the other women, and adopt his way of life.
soon as a woman agreed to move in, the defendant changed completely, and imposed
a regime of violence and humiliation, according to the charge sheet. The
defendant became violent and enraged, and cursed her and the other women,
telling them they and their families would suffer terrible
Systematically, the defendant caused the women to accept his
tyranny and submit completely to his authority, terrifying them and the
children, according to the charge sheet.
Over the years, the women found
other candidates to join his “family,” according to his demands and desire to
expand it, and create more “soldiers” to spread his teachings.
the defendant would order one of the women to find another woman as a way to get
a “reprieve” from the punishment that had been given her.
When a woman
entered the family, the defendant immediately worked to distance her from her
The defendant had absolute control over the women and their
children. To get them to do his bidding, he used violence, humiliation,
extortion and threats, again according to the charge sheet.
fear into the family, the defendant allegedly imposed abusive and degrading
punishments by means of a “beit din.” The women who were found to have behaved
correctly got to select which of the other women and children would be subjected
to harsh and humiliating punishment.
During these “court” sessions, the
remaining women and sometimes even the children would assist obediently in
carrying out the punishment, which included beatings.
Often during these
sessions, the defendant became enraged at one of the women, and also punished
The defendant also imposed on the “family” the idea that he was a
symbol of “the good inclination.”
He convinced the women that one of the
other two defendants, who lived in the storeroom near the “family” house,
symbolized the “snake” and the “evil inclination.”
The primary defendant
also established a rule whereby the women and the children were forced to
confess, either orally or in writing, the “forbidden” things that they had done.
Sometimes, the defendant would coerce these confessions from women and children
by force or humiliation.
As part of the “sentence,” the defendant
allegedly imposed cruel and unusual punishment, including starvation,
imprisonment, and separating mothers from their children. In addition, severe
violence and repeated extreme sexual assault, inter alia, allegedly ensured
their total obedience.
In these circumstances, the women and children
were dispatched to spread religious teachings, to beg for money and find other
women on the streets of Jerusalem and elsewhere.
The women worked from
early morning until night, and would have to telephone the primary defendant to
beg for a break or to be allowed to eat. They were not allowed to do anything
without the defendant’s express permission.
The money that the women
collected would be given directly to the defendant, after they had made a
careful account of it. The women would be subjected to a “court judgment” and
punished if they were suspected of using money without permission.
women were also allegedly forced during the “judgments” to carry out sexual acts
at the request of the defendant.
These punishments were also given to the
The defendant allegedly carried out serious sexual offenses
against the children, including against his biological children.
children were not allowed to study in schools, and the defendant forbade them to
receive medical treatment, so that doctors would not discover what was happening
There are two other charge sheets served against two other men
involved in the “family,” connected to violence and sexual offenses.
of the men lived in the “family” house and allegedly took an active part in the
violence and sex offenses, for many years.
The third defendant took part
in the violence and sex offenses on one occasion, as far as is known at this
The three accused have been remanded in custody pending a hearing
on August 18.Melanie Lidman contributed to this report.
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