6 Dec 2010

Israeli cult leader arrested for the extreme corporal punishment of dozens of children to make them better adults

Jerusalem Post - May 27, 2010

Suspected cult guru arrested in Haifa

Leader allegedly practiced corporal punishment and starvation.


Police Central District detectives located and arrested Shay Abramov, the guru of the so-called “Ithaca” cult on Thursday morning. The cult was followed by the Netanya teacher arrested two weeks ago for abusing her children and starving them. [see article below] Abramov was found hiding away in an apartment in Haifa.

From the beginning of the investigation, police suspected that the teacher was influenced by the cult, which teaches extreme discipline, including corporal punishment and starvation of children, in the belief that children who experience pain in childhood will be better adults.

Abramov and his wife lived in the teacher's apartment in the past, according to information received by the police.

After a widespread week-long manhunt Abramov and his wife were taken in for questioning, on suspicion of involvement in abusing the Netanya teacher's children. Abramov is also suspected of having abused the teacher herself.

Police received intelligence they were hiding out in their apartment in Haifa after the affair broke in the media, observed the building and then raided it, taking the pair into custody.

Police are aware of dozens of children who were the victims of the system of discipline taught by Abramov. The majority of parents involved are educators, and the police are rounding up additional suspects.

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Jerusalem Post - May 14, 2010

Teacher arrested for abusing son

Netanya woman "educated" 10-year-old through starvation, beating.


A 42-year-old teacher from Netanya was arrested early Friday for allegedly beating and starving her 10-year-old son.

Citing the biblical saying "he who spares the rod, hates his son," the teacher told investigators that she was "educating" the boy.

Police were called to the teacher's apartment due to a noise complaint. Officers asked that loud music playing in her home be turned down, but the people inside refused, until police threatened to break down the door.

When the woman opened the door, police found the boy with two black eyes, bleeding from his forehead and covered in bruises. The teacher, her husband and their children claimed the boy had fallen off his bicycle, but police took the parents in for questioning.

The 10-year-old told police that he had not eaten since the morning, and the woman admitted to hitting him with a carpet beater. Police found that the incident was not isolated, and that the mother had turned up the music so the neighbors would not hear her son cry.

The teacher said she does not believe in the existing educational system, and had been homeschooling her son, after he had gotten into fights at school and stole candy from a local supermarket, she said.

The teacher's husband was released to house arrest. The couple has a second, 14-year-old son. Both boys were transferred to a shelter.

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Ha'aretz - Israel May 29, 2010

Suspected violent cult leader commits suicide in prison cell

Shai Abramov allegedly beat and starved his and other children in order to gain joy and redemption in the future.

By Yaniv Kubovich

Shai Abramov, the suspected leader of a cult which violently attacked children as a means to achieve future joy and redemption, committed suicide late Friday night in his cell in Hadarim prison.

Abramov was arrested on Tuesday for allegedly attacking several children, including his own four children, as part of a cult ritual based on the belief that the more suffering one caused now, the more joy and blessing one would receive in the future.

He shared a cell with two other inmates, who said that he used the lace from his training pants to hang himself while they were asleep.

Abramov underwent psychiatric evaluation on Wednesday, which deemed him fit to remain in police custody pending further investigation. He confessed tot eh allegations against him, yet he later retracted his confession and said that police had beaten him.

Police suspect that Abramiv emotionally controlled a teacher from Netanyha, while using physical violence in order to control her and her two children.

Police also said that Abramov was suspected of starving and humiliating several children. Abramov's wife, with whom he had four children, told police that he used to beat and starve their children too.

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The Jerusalem Post - May 28, 2010

Police:10 more families complained of abuse by cult leader


The Ramle Magistrate’s Court on Thursday extended by seven days the remand of a man suspected of physically abusing the children of parents who sought out his assistance, and teaching these parents to use the same violence as part of a system of “extreme discipline.”

Though they wouldn’t give an exact number, police said Thursday they have received complaints from at least 10 other families who say they fell victim to the Ithaka Group, led by Shai Abramov.

The affair first came to light following the arrest two weeks ago of a teacher from Netanya accused of beating and starving her 10-year-old son. Under questioning, police discovered that the boy was beaten as part of an educational method the mother said she learned from Abramov, a Netanya resident.

Abramov and his wife were arrested late Tuesday night after officers from the central district of the special police investigative unit Yamar received a tip that Abramov was hiding out in Haifa’s lower city. After staking out the house for several hours, Yamar officers busted in and arrested the two.

Abramov’s wife’s remand was also extended by seven days on Thursday.

An additional suspect was arrested by police on Thursday and he will have a remand hearing at the Ramle Magistrate’s Court on Friday. Police say the man, a 43-year-old associate of Abramov’s, is accused of tampering with the investigation against the alleged cult leader.

Ch.-Supt. Asher Avri, who is heading the investigation, said that at the moment they are pursuing charges against Abramov in relation to the beating of the 10-year-old boy in Netanya, and the possibility that he led classes in which he instructed parents on how to physically assault their children.

Avri said that Yamar investigators do not believe that Abramov is mentally deranged or insane and that “as far as our assessments have gone so far, we believe that this man was perfectly sane and aware of his actions.”

Avri said that while the investigation of Abramov only began following the arrest of the Netanya mother, they believe that there are at least 10 other victims. Avri wouldn’t give an exact number, but he did say that at least 10 complaints have reached police, some directly and some by way of the Israel Center for Cult Victims.

Avri said police are still undecided on whether or not to refer to Abramov’s group as a cult, though the Israel Center for Cult Victims said Thursday the group has all the classic makings of a cult and that “over the past 3-1⁄2 years, over 20 families have come to us to complain about Abramov.”

“We very much believe that this is a cult,” said Rachel, an employee of the center. “First off ,because of the mind control he exerted over the people he dealt with, but also because of the way he professed to have special supernatural powers, something that is very common with cults.”

Rachel added that Abramov claimed that he spoke to invisible figures who gave him advice on how to instruct people, and that their wisdom could not be questioned. He also reportedly used this purported wisdom to threaten his alleged victims, telling them that if they did not follow his advice, they would suffer terrible misfortune.

Abramov would reportedly tell them that he could see visions of such tragedies happening if his words weren’t followed.

Rachel said it is wrong to presume that the people who allegedly fell under Abramov’s spell were weak-minded, saying, “we see in all of the 80 or so cults in Israel that it isn’t just weak people who fall in. It is often very strong, intelligent people who are going through a crisis or some sort of change in their lives.”

“They are looking for answers and someone exploits this.”

Abramov is a rather shadowy figure, with police saying that he lived in a number of places in the North before moving to live with family in Netanya a year ago. On a cached version of the Ithaka Web site Abramov describes himself as a 40-year-old married father of three and a former educator in the Israeli school system, but the Education Ministry has no record of him having been employed or accredited by it.

He did, however, often go to school and offer his educational services and propose that schools hire him to assist children.

The Israel Center for Cult Victims said Abramov was originally named Abramoff. He then changed it to Abramov and finally last year to “Maayan,” in the wake of a number of civil lawsuits filed against him. The Israel Center for Cult Victims said they actually hired a private investigator to find Abramov six months ago, but could not locate him.

The Ithaka Web site, which has been shut down by the authorities, described Abramov’s “journey” to discover “a guidance system” to help people handle the “wide spectrum of challenges dealing with human behavior.”

The Web site says Abramov’s methods are particularly well-suited for at-risk children. It also featured a link to Abramov’s book, which is titled The Guide to Love.

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Jerusalem Post - May 30, 2010

Cult leader's family suspects foul play


Suspected cult leader Shai Abramof's family has not ruled out the possibility of foul play in his death, reported Army Radio on Sunday.

His lawyer said their were no previous signs that he was suicidal after having met with him on Friday morning.

The family requested that an external investigative committee be created to look into the issue of Abramof's suicide.

Abramof, 40, suspected of being a cult leader and encouraging a teacher to starve and beat her young son committed suicide in his prison cell at the Hadarim Prison in the Sharon area on Friday night.

He was found by wardens after hanging himself with a lace taken from a pair of pants. Paramedics tried to resuscitate him without success.

Abramof’s two cellmates were asleep at the time of the suicide. He had undergone an evaluation by social services and found not to be suicidal, the Prisons Service said.

He was arrested in Haifa on Wednesday along with his wife on suspicion of heading the Itka cult, and ordering his followers to physically abuse their children.

Three weeks ago, a 42-year-old schoolteacher from Netanya, allegedly a member of the cult, was arrested for starving and badly beating her 10-year-old son.

Abramof’s attorney, Avishag Cohen, said her client had undergone a humiliating experience during his arrest, when officers had “stepped on his head in front of his wife and children.”

Cohen added that Abramof had been denied his legal rights such as consulting with an attorney following the arrest.

Last year, two inmates at Hadarim committed suicide, prompting criticism over the ability of the Prisons Service to prevent such incidents.

Assaf Goldring, who smothered his three-year-old daughter to death with plastic wrapping, leapt to his death from a jail courtyard fence in September 2009.

In August 2009, television star Dudu Topaz, arrested for ordering the beatings of television executives who rejected his ideas for television shows, took his own life. Both men were on suicide watch.

The Prisons Service set up committees to investigate the incidents. A spokesman said more than 750 suicide attempts were stopped last year.

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