Jerusalem police referred to Tuesday’s announcement of the arrest of the leader of a polygamous Breslov cult as a “Goel Ratzon number two,” in reference to the cult leader who was arrested a year and a half ago similar charges, who had 17 wives and 39 children. Following Ratzon’s arrest, the Social Services and Welfare Ministry created a special branch of the ministry with 20 social workers to deal with cults in the country.
There are an estimated 80 to 100 cults operating in Israel. Cults are difficult to break up because authorities can only intervene if there is clear evidence of abuse. Due to the secretive nature of most cults, and the complete mental domination over members of the cult, it is difficult for social workers or police to clearly state that abuse is present.
“We are building a process of how to deal with other families in similar situations, and are working on identifying certain signals that mean that cult could be starting before it’s completely built up,” said Yael Hermel, director of services at the new branch that deals with cults.