The teacher who was arrested Friday on suspicion of abusing her 10-year-old son is a member of a cult which preaches for stern disciplining methods outside the formal education system. Police are checking the suspect's connection to the group.
A man who is familiar with the cult said the suspect is known there as "the prophet" and has described the group's leader as "the seculars' Elior Chen."
The suspect was arrested following neighbors' complaints of loud music. Patrol officers who entered the apartment found the suspect's son bruised and famished having not eaten the entire day. The mother eventually confessed to hitting her son claiming, "Spare the rod and spoil the child, right?"
It was later discovered that the boy was not registered in any school since December. He and his older brother were turned over to social service while their mother's remand was extended by three days. Her partner, who was also present in the apartment, was arrested for failing to report violence and obstruction of justice. He was released to house arrest following his interrogation.
The teacher, her children and partner resided in the Sharon region until last December when she informed her son's school they were moving up north. In reality the family relocated to Netanya, with the boy not attending any educational facility, a fact which was kept secret. The Education Ministry said they were looking into the matter.
Teacher in court (Photo: Ofer Amram)
Police suspect that the teacher's behavior is explained by her membership in the "Ithaca" cult. A source closely familiar with the group explained that it preaches for strict education of children and their removal from formal educational establishments. "It's absurd that she teaches and makes a living from formal education. How did they let her become a teacher?," he said.
'Cult destroyed lives'
The source further noted that in the cult the suspect is known as "the prophet" and her partner is a senior member in the group, "which has destroyed the lives of dozens of families after their loved ones followed the cult leader blindly and ended contact with their relatives." He further noted that the suspect has not been in contact with her family for more than three years.
It was revealed that the children's father does not reside in Israel, while his mother pays his alimony payments. Nevertheless, she has not been able to see her grandchildren since the mother joined the cult, despite a court ruling arranging visiting rights.
Police say they are checking whether the abuse and removal of the boy from the school was part of the cult's activities.
Attorney Dana Green from the Public Defender's Office who represented the suspect in her remand hearing said that her client confessed to hitting her child as a measure of discipline, but not in a way which would cause bruises.
The suspect further told Green that she hit her son after he hit, threatened and stole from the grocery store. The attorney noted she has no knowledge of the suspect's membership in the cult and was not informed of it by her client.