Four wives of jailed cult leader found pro-polygamy party to run in elections

Spouses of Daniel Ambash, convicted of sadistic abuse of his family members, vow to fight to prevent the government intervening in Israelis’ private lives

Raoul Wootliff is a former Times of Israel political correspondent and Daily Briefing podcast producer.

Women from the Ambash cult speak with reporters at the Knesset as they arrive to present their electoral slate to the Central Elections Committee on August 1, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)
Women from the Ambash cult speak with reporters at the Knesset as they arrive to present their electoral slate to the Central Elections Committee on August 1, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Four wives of a polygamous cult leader who was convicted of sadistic abuse of his family members six years ago officially registered on Thursday as a political party to run in September’s election.

In 2013, Daniel Ambash was sentenced to 26 years in prison in what has been described as one of the most shocking abuse cases in the country’s history. His six wives and many children were kept by Ambash and his assistants in slavery conditions, forcibly confined and routinely punished with rape, electric shocks and beatings.

But most of the wives have never renounced Ambash, a Bratslav ultra-Orthodox Jew. They still live together, view themselves as his wives and revere him. The four have claimed the entire case was fabricated.

Filing forms for the Kama (Advancing Individual Rights) party, Aderet Ambash, chair of the new party and one of the four wives, said that the new faction aims to fight to keep the government from intervening in Israelis’ private lives.

Four wives of polygamous cult leader Daniel Ambash filing the forms of their new party, Kama, to the Central Elections Committee at the Knesset on August 1, 2019. (Raoul Wootliff/Times of Israel)

“We have seen all the ills of the police, the justice system, the government, and we’ve realized that it’s not just our problem. It’s a social problem that needs a deep solution,” Aderet Ambash said, referring to the case exposed in 2011 after one of Ambash’s wives spoke out about what was happening in the cult.

Following an investigation and a court case, Ambash was convicted on 18 of the 20 charges against him in October 2013, including sexual offenses, abuse of minors, incarceration and sadistic violence.

According to the court ruling, on one occasion, Ambash took one of his wives outside the house, naked, in the middle of the night, and splashed water on her and dragged her by the hair. In another incident, he shoved the head of one of his wives into the toilet and flushed it as she suffocated.

Daniel Ambash, a cult leader who in 2013 was convicted of raping and abusing his wives and children. (Screen capture: YouTube)

He also raped his daughter on another occasion in front of his whole family, including several children, claiming it was “part of her duty in family life.”

“We believe that if the Torah gives people the ability to choose their own life, the state has no place to intervene and prevent that. And we will fight for that right,” Ayelet Ambash added, in an apparent reference to polygamous marriage.

The Central Elections Committee opened its doors on Wednesday for parties jostling for the Knesset’s 120 seats to register their rosters ahead of the September 17 elections. With over 40 parties in total having taken registration forms, nine had filed by Wednesday afternoon, setting up a potentially busy day on Thursday before the final deadline.

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