Rabbi Moshe Yazdi, 59, was indicted on Monday for seven counts of rape and fraud of women in his community in Givat Ze'ev, the State Attorney's Office announced. Yazdi was first arrested on April 27.
Yazdi deceived his followers into believing that he had special powers and was able to "purify" women by "descending to their impurity," and led them to believe that he was acting according to Jewish law.
He also convinced them to give him thousands of shekels based on fraudulent claims, taking advantage of his authority, the indictment reads.
Yazdi was the head of the "Amudei Hashalom" ("Pillars of Peace") community and nonprofit since the 1990s, which included a soup kitchen, food deliveries to people in need and daily Torah classes. His followers included ba'alei teshuva – returnees to Torah observance.
Yazdi developed a concept called "canceling the mind," in which he preached total obedience to "da'at Torah" — the opinion of the Torah.
He described himself as a "true righteous person" and one of the mythical 36 hidden "tzadikim," who was able to communicate with the holy spirit and deceased rabbis. He led his followers to submit to his will even if it seemed immoral or not a violation of halakha (Jewish law).
He then sexually exploited seven women and told each of them separately that they were special and had a "special soul." He also directed them to transfer money to a number of different bank accounts in order to attempt to evade tax authorities.
Yazdi was indicted on a long list of offenses, including fraudulent rape, fraudulent sodomy, fraud under aggravated circumstances, money laundering, tax evasion and more.
Sexual abuse in the ultra-Orthodox world
Sexual abuse of women and children in the ultra-Orthodox community has slowly gained attention in recent years.
Allegations that surfaced against popular haredi author Haim Walder in November caused what some viewed as the beginning of a significant shift in the community's treatment of the issue.