One of the more bizarre episodes in Israel’s history has come to an end, as polygamist cult leader Goel Ratzon was sentenced by the Tel Aviv District Court on Tuesday to 30 years in prison on his convictions for sex crimes and financial fraud, reports Israeli newspaper Haaretz.
Ratzon had 21 “wives,” who were part of his cult over a period of about 30 years, and with whom by some accounts he had more than 40 children.
In September, Ratzon, 64, was convicted of most of the sex crimes he was accused of and of financial fraud, but acquitted of an enslaving charge regarding several of his wives and children.
Ratzon was indicted in in February 2010 on a litany of charges, including multiple counts of rape, sodomy, molestation of minors, fraud and the unusual charge of spiritual enslavement.
The fraud charges against Ratzon described him as defrauding his wives out of their money and manipulating them into serving as his slaves.
Soon after his arrest, Ratzon had said he did not understand why he was under arrest, and also maintained that all actions he undertook were with the consent of his wives and that they were permitted to leave his cult anytime.
The indictment repeated threats Ratzon made to his wives, in which he threatened to harm their health or that of their children if they did not obey his wishes.
Ratzon was also accused of using different methods to strip the women of their identities, including forcing them to tattoo his name and image on their bodies and requiring them to change their given names to ones of his choosing.
The women were then reportedly required to break off all ties with their families and friends and were not allowed to have any social life or connections whatsoever outside of the communal house.
Ratzon also wielded absolute control over the women’s movements, allowing them to leave the house only with his approval and requiring them to report to him all excursions, except to their workplace. He also forbade them from wearing sunglasses when outside with him, so that he could follow their gaze at all times.
Ratzon required the children to line up and kiss his feet every time he entered the house, to reaffirm his superiority.
He was accused of demanding the women hand over their money to him, which the indictment alleged brought a number of the women to bankruptcy, including one who ran up a debt of over $100,000 funneling money to Ratzon.
The women were required to hand over their paychecks and their National Insurance Institute child allotments into a communal account that Ratzon exercised “absolute” control over.