JERUSALEM (AP) - An Israeli man who kept a cult-like harem of women and fathered dozens of children with them was charged in a Tel Aviv court Sunday with enslavement, rape, incest and other sexual offenses.
The 25-page indictment accused 60-year-old Goel Ratzon of setting himself up as a "godlike" figure who preyed on troubled women while treating them like "chattel."
The case has captivated the Israeli public since Ratzon was arrested last month. Several of the women have come forward with details of their unconventional lives, describing their attraction to the man with flowing, long white hair.
Ratzon, who remains behind bars, has denied any wrongdoing and said the women joined him voluntarily.
According to the indictment, Ratzon kept at least 21 women who bore him a total of 49 children. It said he kept the women in a state of near-total obedience in crowded apartments in the Tel Aviv area, taking their welfare checks and making them take bank loans which he then confiscated.
Ratzon created an "image of an omnipotent one who was blessed with supernatural powers and the ability to heal, destroy and cast curses," the indictment said.
Some of the women have said they found him irresistible, and said in recent interviews that he connected with them spiritually.
Many of the women tattooed images of the chubby, bespectacled, Ratzon with his flowing white hair on their bodies. Others tattooed his name on their neck and arms. They gave the children they bore with Ratzon variations of his first name Goel, which means "savior" in Hebrew.
Police were aware of Ratzon for years, but say they couldn't make any allegations stick until three of the women brought complaints to welfare authorities. Ratzon was not legally married to the women.
Ratzon was arrested last month but wasn't formally charged until Sunday.
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