Israeli cult leader convicted of sex crimes

Updated 08 September 2014

Israeli cult leader convicted of sex crimes

JERUSALEM: An Israeli court convicted a polygamist cult leader of sex crimes on Monday, after he kept a harem of women who bore him dozens of children in a state of near total obedience.
The Tel Aviv District court convicted Goel Ratzon of rape, incest and other offenses, but acquitted him of an enslavement charge, sparking cries of outrage in the courtroom.
The case shocked Israelis when details of the cult emerged in 2010. Ratzon kept at least 21 “wives,” some of whom tattooed his name on their bodies along with images of the short 64-year-old with long white hair and beard.
The children they bore him were named after variations of his first name Goel, or “savior” in Hebrew.
Yehudit Herman, who was part of the harem, told channel 2 television she had mixed feelings about the court’s decisions. She said she was “really happy” that he was charged with the sex crimes. “I know what damage went on there, there are really women who were hurt by him for the rest of their lives, small girls and women.”
She said she is disappointed that he wasn’t charged with enslavement but that is what she assumed would happen as it was difficult to prove. “This wasn’t regular slavery where someone’s passport is taken away from them and they are locked up and they are physically deprived of things,” she said. “This was spiritual slavery, mental slavery,” she said.
She said she was 17 years old when she met Ratzon, then 30 years her senior. Herman had lived with Ratzon for 12 years and had 5 children with him according to the station.
Another former member of the harem, identified by her first name Maayan in Israeli media, was outraged and tearfully cried out at the courthouse after the rulings. “I was in totally slavery! If the state of Israel wouldn’t have freed me I would have been serving a life sentence.”
A sentencing date was not immediately set.


UNESCO to protect Lebanon as 60 historic buildings ‘risk collapse’

Updated 47 min 38 sec ago

UNESCO to protect Lebanon as 60 historic buildings ‘risk collapse’

  • Even before the explosion, there had been growing concern in Lebanon about the condition of heritage in Beirut due to rampant construction
  • Some of the worst damage was in the Gemmayzeh and Mar-Mikhael neighborhoods a short distance from Beirut port

PARIS: The UN’s cultural agency UNESCO vowed Thursday to lead efforts to protect vulnerable heritage in Lebanon after last week’s gigantic Beirut port blast, warning that 60 historic buildings were at risk of collapse.
The effects of the blast were felt all over the Lebanese capital but some of the worst damage was in the Gemmayzeh and Mar-Mikhael neighborhoods a short distance from the port. Both are home to a large concentration of historic buildings.
“The international community has sent a strong signal of support to Lebanon following this tragedy,” said Ernesto Ottone, assistant UNESCO Director-General for Culture.
“UNESCO is committed to leading the response in the field of culture, which must form a key part of wider reconstruction and recovery efforts.”
Sarkis Khoury, head of antiquities at the ministry of culture in Lebanon, reported at an online meeting this week to coordinate the response that at least 8,000 buildings were affected, said the Paris-based organization.
“Among them are some 640 historic buildings, approximately 60 of which are at risk of collapse,” UNESCO said in a statement.
“He (Khoury) also spoke of the impact of the explosion on major museums, such as the National Museum of Beirut, the Sursock Museum and the Archaeological Museum of the American University of Beirut, as well as cultural spaces, galleries and religious sites.”
Even before the explosion, there had been growing concern in Lebanon about the condition of heritage in Beirut due to rampant construction and a lack of preservation for historic buildings in the densely-packed city.
UNESCO said Khoury “stressed the need for urgent structural consolidation and waterproofing interventions to prevent further damage from approaching autumn rains.”
The explosion on August 4, which left 171 people dead, has been blamed on a vast stock of ammonium nitrate left in a warehouse at the port for years despite repeated warnings.
Lebanon’s government under Prime Minister Hassan Diab resigned this week following days of demonstrations demanding accountability for the disaster.