Daniel Ambash
Daniel Ambash צילום: Kobi Gideon/Flash90

Daniel Ambash, the head of the so-called “Jerusalem Cult” was found dead in his prison cell Friday morning.

The Israel Prison Service announced Friday that guards found Ambash, 67, dead in his cell in Ayalon Prison in Ramle Friday morning.

Ambash was set to meet with parole officials next week regarding his possible early release. Attorneys representing Ambash had requested he be paroled, citing his declining health.

Relatives say Ambash’s health went into decline last year after he was hospitalized for blood sepsis. On Sunday, Ambash suffered a stroke.

Serving a 26-year sentence for sexual abuse, abuse of minors, and a series of other crimes, Ambash’s prison term was set to end in 2039.

First arrested in 2011, Ambash was charged with 20 counts stemming from accusations of various sex crimes, child abuse, and false imprisonment. In 2013, Ambash was found guilty of 18 of the 20 charges.

Born and raised in a secular Jewish family in France, Ambash trained in dance and choreography, before moving to Israel, and ultimately joining a splinter of the Breslov Hasidic movement.

Moving outside the bounds of the mainstream Breslov movement, Ambash became a polygamist, and formed a small, tightknit community, referred to during the case as the “Jerusalem Cult”.

As spiritual leader of the cult, Ambash and two other cult members used imprisonment and various forms of physical abuse and assault to maintain control and to purify members of ‘forbidden thoughts’.

The cult centered around Ambash’s growing family, including the six wives and 14 children he had at the time of his arrest.

After his conviction, four of his six wives continued to lobby o Ambash’s behalf, with several forming a political party in 2019.