Jerusalem Cult Leader Arrested on Suspicion He Enslaved, Sexually Abused Women and Children

The Israel Police arrested a Jerusalem resident Monday on suspicion that he ran a cult, which he had allegedly used to enslave and sexually abuse dozens of women and children.

The suspect, a man in his 60s, was arrested along with eight women suspected of abetting him at the Be'er Miriam religious seminary in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Geula.

– Haaretz Weekly Ep. 56

Haaretz Weekly Ep. 56Haaretz

The man is suspected of having abused women and their children for a number of years. He was arrested for similar crimes in 2015, but was released after women living in the compound testified on his behalf. He was arrested Monday after women who had left the compound after studying there reported their experiences to the police.

The Jerusalem Magistrate's Court extended the suspect's detention by eight days on Monday afternoon, and the detentions of two female suspects by three and four days respectively.

The public defender representing the suspect said that the process is in its early stages, and that "the rabbi claims that this is a conflict between the women at the seminary and their families," which resulted in the past in complaints that had been filed to the police for which he has already been investigated. The suspect, he said, denies all suspicions against him and is cooperating with law enforcement.

The case began when the police received reports that dozens of women and children were living in cramped conditions at the compound. Over the course of the investigation, police collected mounting evidence that the man had absolute control over the lives of about 50 women living at the compound, punishing them and isolating them from their families and from society.

It also emerged that children, some of whom are under the age of five, were held in isolation at the compound. A police representative said that the children were dealt with roughly, and that there is evidence that the cult leader beat at least one child.