By Elizabeth Barber
September 9, 2014

A cultish prostitution ring in Israel has for years convinced female members that the future of the Israeli state weighed on them having sex with non-Jewish men, say local police.

Eight ringleaders of what police are describing as a “messianic” cult active throughout Israel are accused of telling female recruits that they must prostitute themselves to non-Jewish men “to save the Jewish people and expedite the redemption,” Haaretz reports.

The women, who also were plied with drugs and alcohol, were told that their own spiritual redemption depended on them selling sex to the cult’s clients, say officers.

Police have shut down the alleged prostitution ring and arrested eight suspects, including David Dvash, 60, a resident of the hard-line Bat Ayin settlement in the West Bank, Haaretz reports. Dvash, who calls himself David the Best, reportedly has 15 children and is married to two women, one of whom is also a suspect in the case.

Lawyers for Dvash and another male suspect filed an insanity plea in court on Sunday, Haaretz said.

Police first learned about the cult about four months ago after Lehava, an extremist Israeli group opposed to marriage between Jewish women and non-Jewish men, alerted authorities to the prostitution ring, Sky News reported. The ring, which had been active for about six or seven years and had recruited about five women, some of whom were minors, apparently attracted a Palestinian cliental from the West Bank, as well as foreign workers in Tel Aviv.

However, this is not the only Israeli sex cult making the news this week. In a separate case, the Tel Aviv district court on Monday convicted a 64-year-old man of rape, incest and other crimes, for keeping a harem of 21 subjugated “wives” who bore him 38 children — all of whom were given variations of his first name, Goel, or “savior” in Hebrew. Some of his daughters were among the rape victims, Reuters said.

Goel Ratzon was found not guilty on the enslavement charge, though former harem women at the sentencing told reporters that they had been in “total slavery,” the Associated Press said. Some of them, according to Reuters, had Ratzon’s name and face tattooed on their bodies.

Contact us at editors@time.com.

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