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Israeli Crackdown on Sects Urged

Date: February 6, 1987

A government committee has urged a crackdown on mystical religious sects that are accused of luring thousands of young Israelis from Judaism.Miriam Glazer-Tassa, a member of the Knesset (parliament) who chaired the panel, described the sects yesterday as a "plague on our society." She accused them of extortion, brainwashing and illegal hypnosis.

Among the sects are the Copenhagen-based Emans, Scientology, Transcendental Meditation, the Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church, Hare Krishna and groups associated with Werner Erhard, Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, Ananda Marga and Guru Maharaj Ji.

Glazer-Tassa said that 5,000 Israelis have joined these groups since 1973. Israel, with only 3.5 million Jews, "cannot afford to give up any of our young people," she said.

The panel, which included social workers and psychologists, found that Israelis have been increasingly attracted to these sects since the 1973 war in which more than 2,000 soldiers were killed. "People are looking for an easy fix of happiness," Glazer-Tassa said.

The committee urged tougher measures against the sects, such as enforcement of a law restricting hypnosis and denial of tax breaks given to churches and mosques.

Associated Press