Monday, December 27, 2004

To Knesset committee:"I had a very famous rabbi who would come and order a girl to have sex with him in the doggie position,and would ask her to bark"


At 3:22 PM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

Our leadership ... the problem.

Land of filth and honey
by Eli Shai
Gur Salamon, Illustrative photo
The Jerusalem Post
November 5, 2004

In Foreign Parts: Trafficking in Women in Israel (In Hebrew) By Ilana Hammerman. Am Oved. 199pp.

The fact that a successful sex industry is thriving in Israel is obvious to anyone who looks at the sections of the newspapers offering escort, massage and "health" services in every possible language. The media that was supposed to expose the connection between Mafia money and prostitution, and its attempts to buy government officials in order to realize the interests of organized crime, have themselves become a beneficiary of the pimping business.

But only a few of the readers of those unsavory sections of the newspaper are aware that Israel has become a trafficking center in which women are imprisoned and turned into sex slaves in sub-human conditions.

In Ilana Hammerman's latest expose, In Foreign Parts, some of the testimonies she records are shocking to read: women testify that they were locked up without food, were subject to threats and physical and emotional abuse, and were humiliated and put through harrowing work in the sex- service industry.

With all of the focus on the plight of the victim, one deficiency of the book has to do with the profile of the typical client. Hammerman, an esteemed literary editor and gifted writer, leaves him as an anonymous figure, merely providing an indirect sketch of the group profile. The general impression is that there is wide demand from a very broad range of socio-economic levels and ages.

"I had a very famous rabbi who would come and order a girl to have sex with him in the doggie position, and would ask her to bark," a former brothel owner testified at a parliamentary committee. One of the working women, presented as a devout Christian, expresses an aversion to her religious clients: "They had a big black hat and under it a little black hat and they were real perverts."

What most impressed Hammerman, however, was that the clients and the business owners tended to present themselves as "upright citizens," and while some of the recipients of their services are aware of the prostitutes' distress and try to rescue them, the vast majority views them as mere service providers.

IN A journey to Moldova, the author meets two women, Maria and Masha, who worked as prostitutes in Israel for some time. The two, who speak fluent Hebrew, are glad to meet her, and according to their testimony remember their time herein a very positive light: "They told me right away it was fun in Israel, a real paradise; they had a good time, traveled, went to the beach, ate at good restaurants - and of course made money, lots of money."

Through their eyes, the experience in Israel, viewed retrospectively, looks plainly wonderful. Maria testifies that she worked in the sex trade in Germany and Turkey before she came to Israel, where she describes conditions as excellent. Interestingly, though, both speakers emphasize the family dimension of their personal enterprise.

One of the most fascinating elements of these anecdotes is the strong and surprising resemblance between the emphasis on family in the prostitutes' consciousness and in the testimonies of the owners and clients of the local brothels. In other words, both sides - the one usually described as the victim, and the other usually described as the exploiter - sound like enthusiastic proponents of family sanctity. All of their actions day and night are presented as supposedly aimed at one supreme pure purpose - the preservation of very bourgeois family values.

The two women the author met in Moldova provide testimony that is actually the opposite of the enlightened discourse; they announce that they chose this career consciously, and do not view themselves as victims. Both are interested in continuing to work overseas - one as a caretaker and the other as a stripper, and both continue dreaming of family and children.

Masha excitedly presents her picture album, a memento of the days she worked in Israel, and it appears her parents and family are aware of her work here and accept it with resignation.

General information about the dimensions of the phenomenon in Moldova reveals that large numbers of women are trafficked for prostitution, that Israel is a prominent target country, and that often the young women come back in an impaired emotional state, socially ostracized and bereft of marriage prospects because of their past.

The local rate for sex services at the Chisinau train station is about NIS 0.70 for a blowjob, and that illustrates the huge price gap between the homeland and export countries. In most cases the prostitutes do not benefit from the costliness of the service they provide overseas, because most of the payment goes to the pimps and sponsors.

ONE OF the strong points of the book is the author's ability to meet the women who are the protagonists of her narrative, portraying them as complex individuals with inner lives that sometimes include literary and artistic talent.

The first and quite interesting meeting was between Hammerman and a young Russian-born prostitute named Tania, who has been living in Israel for a long time and who has documented her experiences in writing and in painting. She has had varied professional experiences, ranging from horrible brothels to upper- scale ones where she made large sums of money, and which she considers "excellent" places of employment.

After being sold into prostitution in Israel and working in that world for years, Tania was arrested and locked up. Now she finally feels she will be able to extricate herself from the vicious world she has inhabited for so long.

A former prostitute named Olga, who currently lives with her Arab Israeli partner from Jaffa, told the author she was forced to work in a brothel after she was invited to Israel by a friend who promised to help her find a job. But the indictment against the man who sold her into prostitution says the two were engaged in "a romantic relationship" as the judge put it, and that the former had suggestedshe come to Israel to work as a dancer, stripper and prostitute.

Katia, another young girl Hammerman met in the care of the "Save the Children" association in Chisinau, kept a diary of her experiences in Israel. Her testimony shows that she was solicited by a local woman to come to Israel to work as a caretaker and cleaner, but even before she left she was aware of the real goal of such a business trip. She was smuggled from Egypt through the desert, raped by one of the importers, forced to work in prostitution and held by force.

She managed to escape and go to the police and after staying at a shelter for battered women she returned to her country and came back to visit Israel only to testify at the trial of the man who imprisoned her. Segments of her story appear in the book in a translation from the Romanian and they document a humiliating experience that reflects the abuse and dehumanization experienced by many of the women involved in the Israeli sex industry.

THIS IS an important book, but often an embarrassing one, because again and again it reveals the troubling gap between enlightened discourse on the issue and findings on the ground that paint a complex and very problematic picture.

Not only is prostitution not part of a marginal back yard in Israeli society, but it turns out to be a profitable and thriving business located in its front yard, and one that is apparently tangent to the axis between organized crime, laundered capital, and senior government.

Readers might have liked to see the phenomenon as part of a dark and obscure world that stands at the opposite pole of normal family life. But the prostitutes, their clients and the owners alike talk about a fierce yearning for family, a yearning that is repeated so obsessively that it seems prostitution and warm family lives are inextricably linked.

The women activists, who justifiably wish to come to the prostitutes' rescue, seek to present the full horror of the Israeli sex industry, and in that respect there is no doubt these women are the victims not only of the system, but of a global meat market that traffics in body parts and bodies.

Disturbingly, though, the testimonies show that very often the women are willing victims, serial and habitual victims, and victims who often cooperate with their pimps and members of organized crime. At the end of a fascinating personal and documentary journey, the writer has to admit that she entered "these gray regions of trafficking in women that still today, after all the efforts I have made, the trips and the conversations, remain foreign and incomprehensible to me."

This important book ought to generate social and legislative change and raise awareness of the appalling phenomenon. Yet it seems that at times it was hard for Hammerman to deal with the gap between reality and the enlightened view of the way things should be done as she tried to bridge the gaps that emerged from the women's testimonies through personal and literary contemplation.

The research that started here is indicative of the need for further and more intensive examination of the socio-economic system that drives the industry, and the dark mingling of capital, police- organized crime, prostitution and Israeli party politics.

The writer is author of Messiah of Incest: New and Uncensored History of the Sexual Element in Jewish Mystical History (Yediot Aharonot).

Photo; Caption: Whether willing or forced victims of the sex industry, prostitution is no longer a marginal element in Israel's back yard.

At 5:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why are you so obssessed with digging up and publicizing such prurient material? Who are you "blowing the whistle on" here? What's the point? To show that amongst a population of several hundred thousand there are some who are hypocrites and deviants? You're worse than they are: You're acting out your perversions publicly and maligning the entire Jewish Orthodox world.

Rather than dig up salacious material about anonymous people from the past, do something constructive with your time and abilities.

At 10:34 AM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

>Why are you so obssessed with digging up and publicizing
>such prurient material? Who are you "blowing the whistle
>on" here? What's the point? To show that amongst a
>population of several hundred thousand there are some who
>are hypocrites and deviants?

If you read my postings you'll note that the point is to force my community leadership to address the real problem of deviants among some of our supposedly finest institutions. As we see with the RCA, they are apparently incapable of dealng with the problem. The point of this blog is to bring publicity to the problem and force our leaders to address the problem.

>You're worse than they are:

Nope. Not even close.

>You're acting out your perversions publicly


>and maligning the entire Jewish Orthodox world.

The Jewish Orthodox world by ignoring the problem brings this upon their own heads.

I would note my criticism extends to all denominations and groups that refuse to clean house.

>Rather than dig up salacious material about anonymous
>people from the past, do something constructive with
>your time and abilities.

I try to use all my time constructively. Thank you.


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