The Jerusalem District Court on Tuesday convicted the head of a "sadistic cult" and his assistant, who were arrested
two years ago.
The two were found guilty of most charges, including sex offenses, holding individuals in slavery conditions and abusing women and dozens of children, some of them the biological kids of the cult head.
The "family" included six women and dozens of children. The head of the cult convinced the women to join him pleasantly, but once they did – he turned their lives into a living hell, including physical, sexual and mental abuse, both against them and against their children.
Two of the women were removed from the courtroom as the verdict was being delivered after causing a commotion. "There was only love in the house," one of them said later. "It's all a lie."
A gag order has been placed on the full indictment in a bid to prevent the identification of the dozens of young children and their mothers. According to a summarized version cleared for publication, the main culprit, D., was charged with holding individuals under conditions of slavery; physically, mentally and sexually abusing minors and their mothers, false imprisonment, rape, sodomy and indecent acts, as well as serious violence offenses.
D. in court (Archive photo: Gil Yohanan)
According to the indictment, D. saw himself as the successor of a well-known figure from his Hasidic movement and the person chosen to distribute his doctrine in the world. He got more and more women to join his cult by convincing them of his "powers."
Once these women fell into his trap, his pleasant behavior was replaced with violence, abuse and contempt – which moved on to the next generation when the children were born.
The indictment says D. headed a "family" of six women and dozens of children, some of them his biological kids, who lived in apartments in Jerusalem and Tiberias, and treated them brutally and violently, doing "whatever he wanted."
He was accused of fully controlling the women and children's lives, turning the kids into beggars and distributing his religious doctrine from dusk till dawn, using cruel measures to punish them according to his unexpected caprices, erasing their personality and distorting their thoughts.
The punitive measures, according to the State Prosecutor's Office, were carried out with unusual cruelty, using harsh violence, imprisonment, starvation, physical and mental abuse and humiliation, including serious sex and violence offenses and keeping the children away from their mothers.
D. was accused of 15 different counts, including serious sex offenses against his stepdaughters and other children. According to the State Prosecutor's Office, the brutal regime in the "family" home and his full control over the women and children stemmed from his charismatic personality and spiritual traits they attributed to him.
After the trial, the women turned to the cameras and insisted "it wasn't abuse; it was love."
"They shut our mouths. We weren't allowed to speak, the women and children were threatened," said one of the women. According to her, it was actually the police that harmed her: "I got beaten up by the police so I would testify against him. They locked us up in prison for 11 months." Other women also claimed that the police threatened them and made them give "false testimonies under threat."
Regarding D., some of the women said: "He is an amazing, righteous and real person. It doesn't make sense to people that we chose to live with him out of love, and that is why this is a false conviction."
Two men who used to visit the home were also accused of committing serious sex and violence offenses, allegedly under D.'s orders. One of the offenders, whose was also convicted Tuesday, stayed in the "family" home and took an active part in the violence and sex offenses for many years. The other man was accused of committing the offenses in a single incident.
Personal journals kept by the women and children helped police investigators base their case. The diaries pointed to the details of the shocking affair, which was revealed in August 2011 by one of the women who complained to the authorities.
A search of the detainees' homes revealed electric shockers, ropes and rods, as well as medical documents from different hospitals across the country, which point to physical injuries suffered by the children.