A political newcomer expected to enter the next Knesset as part of opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party is suspected of convincing a sexual assault victim to commit perjury to protect the leader of a Kabbalistic group that he is a devout member of, according to an Israeli television report.
Hanoch Milvitzky, 49, managed to easily beat his competitors in Gush Dan for the 26th slot on the Likud’s list for the Knesset, basically guaranteeing his position as a member of Knesset, as polls have consistently shown the party winning over 30 seats in the November 1 elections.
Ahead of the Likud primaries last week, Milvitzky organized a conference that was attended by Likud’s top brass, including MKs Israel Katz, Yoav Gallant and Miri Regev.
The appearance of Likud bigwigs at Milvitzky’s gathering seemed to confirm him as a central figure in Israel’s largest party, a surprising development for a previously unknown attorney who until recently served as deputy mayor of Petah Tikva on behalf of the centrist Yesh Atid party.
According to Channel 12, Milvitzky’s swift rise in Likud ranks can be traced to a relatively small but active group called “Bnei Baruch – Kabbalah Laam,” a New Age religious association founded by Michael Laitman in 1991. The group has a following of approximately 50,000 in Israel and another 150,000 around the world.
The group teaches Kabbalah, a school of thought in Jewish mysticism, but seems to have political standing within the Likud party despite its denial of any political aspirations.
הליכוד שלנו מנצח pic.twitter.com/wN2De3GHLu
— חנוך מילביצקי (@hanochmilwidsky) August 10, 2022
According to the network, some 7,000 members of the group have joined Likud calling themselves “Ihud Haam [literally translated from Hebrew as people’s union] in Likud.”
A former member of the group said it has a dark history relating to sexual abuse offenses, which the report claimed Milvitzky was directly involved in.
The individual, named in the Channel 12 report only as Bokah and described as a member of Laitman’s personal security team who was a member of Bnei Baruch for 20 years, detailed the immense power Laitman has over the group.
“You’re given a solution to any problem you may have in life – relationships, career, and so on. Anyone seeking to get married asks for his permission. The same goes for divorce. If, say, you’re sick, you’d go to him and he’d give you a bag with candy, a kind of medicine,” said Bokah.
Another former member of the group, identified by the network only by the Hebrew initial Tet, has testified in court that a different member of the group, identified by the initial Aleph, was sexually abused by Laitman, who had promised her that sleeping with him would lead to spiritual enlightenment.
According to Tet’s testimony, Aleph, originally from Russia, described Laitman as “an old man who had built a personal relationship with every woman in order to help her reach spiritual enlightenment.”
She allegedly told Tet how Laitman had led her into a small room with a bedroom and told her to get undressed. After she refused, he said, according to Tet’s testimony, “I’m your rabbi. If you love me, you’ll do it for me.”
“He controls your mind, your soul, your conscience — and you can’t refuse him. I was scared, I was scared to say no. It was rape,” Aleph said, according to Tet.
Milvitzky got involved in the coverup attempt, according to the report, as the group allegedly managed to convince Aleph to return to Israel to reject Tet’s damning testimony in exchange for money.
“They flew her to Israel and trained her how to speak in court, how to lie and say she never slept with Laitman,” Bokah said.
Milvitzky, who serves as the legal counsel of Bnei Baruch, was brought in to brief Aleph on the false testimony she would need to give in court, according to Bokah, who said Aleph had shared her ordeal with him when it happened and has since left the group.
“[Milvitzky] led the entire thing. He briefed her on what the judge might ask and what she should say and in what way,” Bokah said. “He knew she was lying. That’s why they were paying her $20,000; first $10,000 and then another $10,000 after she appeared in court and returned to Moscow.”
Channel 12 said, moreover, that the Israel Bar Association is considering disciplinary measures against Milvitzky over claims that he had signed statements on behalf of women in the group without their knowledge.
According to a report by The Marker from earlier this month, Milvitzky was also involved in leading a defamation campaign against a woman who claimed to have been a target of sexual abuse by a member of Bnei Baruch and against another woman who said she was beaten by a member of the group.
Responding to the allegations, Milvitzky issued a statement denying wrongdoing.
“Regarding the accusations against Michael Laitman, the accusation attributed to Tet is not true as she [Tet] recanted in court. Similarly, Aleph has denied the accusations against him [Laitman] twice, six months apart. Your other claims about Milvitzky’s conduct were never brought up in court,” the statement said.
“The complaint filed against Milvitzky with the Israel Bar Association is false and we expect it will be directed to its proper place – the trashcan.”
He noted as well that he had been a member of Likud for about a decade, and had run for office in Petah Tikva under the Yesh Atid party banner on an ad hoc basis and with Likud’s authorization.
Bnei Baruch denied any political involvement and dismissed the allegations against its leader.
“The association has no political colors and does not deal in politics. Rather, it works to share the Kabbalah’s wisdom and make it accessible,” the group said.