Aharon Ramati named as rabbi arrested for alleged enslavement of women

"They would put the girls' fingers into the fire to make them understand what hell is."

The facility where 50 enslaved women were reportedly held in Jerusalem (photo credit: POLICE SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
The facility where 50 enslaved women were reportedly held in Jerusalem
Aharon Ramati, 60, was named on Tuesday as the rabbi arrested one day earlier after a police raid in Jerusalem found roughly 50 women and children kept in near slavery-conditions in a residential facility, Maariv, the sister publication of The Jerusalem Post, reported.
Ramati will be kept under arrest for a week, the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court ruled.
Police are investigating the possible abuse of children ranging from five to 11 years old in the sect.
Nine women, including Ramati’s wife, were arrested under suspicion of aiding and abetting the alleged abuse. Sexual abuse is also under investigation. Police said more arrests would likely take place.
According to Channel 12, Ramati was arrested after six of the women allegedly held by him escaped and filed a report with the Israeli Center for Cult Survivors in Ramat Gan.
The girls who were recruited by the sect “were taught to disassociate themselves from their parents, their families and their friends,” the police said.
To reinforce “multiple lessons of modesty,” the girls’ fingers were thrust into a fire “to make them understand what hell is.”
Ramati disputed the allegations, saying “nobody believes this is true.”
He denied holding children in the facility. “Minors in the house? Maybe they are my grandchildren who came over.”
When asked whether they were held as slaves, he said: “Besides it being absurd, it is stupid.” His lawyer Gabi Trunshvili said: “The rabbi claims there had been a dispute between the women in the ‘seminary’ [the alleged sect] and their family members,” according to Ynet.
Ramati was previously arrested following complaints issued by the Israeli Center for Cult Survivors.
Upon his release in 2015, he spoke to Channel 12’s (then Channel 2) Oded Ben-Ami, saying that “the vast majority of the girls go to work in the morning, and in the afternoon they take part in lessons for maybe three hours... When there were girls who did not like it in the house, I was cruel to them and forced them to try again and again and again.”
Asked on Monday how he expected the case to proceed, Ramati answered, “Just like last time. When the police decide this thing is over.”
Witnesses said they “would see girls sleeping on mattresses on the roof in the cold, sometimes in the rain. We tried to call them, but they did not answer.” They said a cover was later placed over the roof “so we would not see what was happening.”
Hagay Hacohen contributed to this report.