Archives for March 2015

Israel Elections and “Hyde Park” Discourse

For the past three years, ATZUM’s Task Force on Human Trafficking (TFHT) has worked to gain passage of legislation based on the Nordic Model, the international standard designed to criminalize the purchase of sexual services and protect the prostituted person, nearly always a girl or woman victim of childhood rape and/or incest. In February 2015, in partnership with the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel, TFHT organized a panel discussion in which candidates for the upcoming Knesset (to be elected March 17) outlined their plans for addressing all forms of sexual violence, including prostitution and trafficking.  

Eighty people came on a blustery winter night to attend the Jerusalem event billed as a “Hyde Park” discussion, referencing the iconic “Speakers’ Corner” in London. Candidates from nine parties of disparate political positions vying for Knesset seats participated, including:

Rachel Azaria (Kulano)

Dr. Anat Berko (Likud)

Ruth Colian (B’Zhutan)

MK Yifat Kariv (Yesh Atid)

MK Orly Levi-Abekasis (Yisrael Beitenu)

MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli (HaBayit HaYehudi)

Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin (Zionist Camp)

MK Michal Rozin (Meretz)

Aida Touma-Sliman (The Joint List)

The candidates spoke of the need for the next Knesset to combat sexual violence and prostitution in Israel society. Indeed, multi-partisan collaboration will be key to ensuring that legislation is passed protecting girls and women from sexual servitude through prostitution. Notably, during the previous Knesset, TFHT successfully created an alliance of three MKs from different parties across the political spectrum firmly committed to advancing the Nordic Model.

Michal Leibel, lawyer and TFHT Director, said at the event: “The understanding that prostitution is a form of sexual violence and that it should be treated as such is now beginning to enter Israeli discourse. This leads to the only possible conclusion:  to truly reduce prostitution, society must act as decisively against sex-buyers as against pimps.”

Hyde Park

PHOTO. Hyde Park Event: Front row (right to left) MK Candidate, Aida Touma Sliman (the Joint List); Liat Klein, legal advisor of the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel; MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli (HaBayit HaYehudi); MK Yifat Kariv (Yesh Atid); MK Michal Rozin (Meretz) and MK Orly Levi-Abekasis (Yisrael Beytenu)

TIP Report

TFHT was invited to contribute to the U.S. State Department’s Trafficking in Persons (TIP) 2015 Report, a process which allowed us to share our concerns related to the policies and actions of the Ministry of Interior and its adjunct bodies, and their need to act further to protect victims of trafficking. 

The annual TIP Report evaluates and ranks governments based on perceived efforts to acknowledge and combat human trafficking. The report assigns countries tiers according to compliance with standards outlined in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. Israel should take pride in the progress made since 2001, when it received the report’s lowest ranking. Since then, with the help of NGOs such as ATZUM, various forms of trafficking, especially sex trafficking, have decreased.

Yet, while Israel has succeeded in drastically reducing sex trafficking originating in other countries, it has failed to address the prostitution that occurs within its own borders. This is clearly outlined in the 2014  TIP Report, which calls for the need for increased investigations of prostitution of Israeli nationals and stronger sentencing for convicted traffickers.

Surviving a Terror Attack – Two Personal Stories

A total of 1,265 people have been killed as a result of terrorism since September, 2000; thousands more have been injured. For the bereaved and the physically and psychologically wounded, the trauma persists.

These are the stories of a young woman who lives with the haunting memory of how life changed in a split second when she survived a brutal terror bombing; and of a young boy whose severe trauma following Operation Pillar of Defense (2012) was retriggered during the 2014 Gaza War.  ATZUM, through the Roberta Project for Survivors of Terror, provides assistance to these people, and many others whose needs are insufficiently met by public and/or private resources. 

Surviving a Suicide Bus Bomb Attack

It began early Sunday, February 22, 2004. I was 13 years old. That morning I was getting my little brother ready for kindergarten. My father offered to give me a lift to school. Not wanting to hold him up, I told him to leave without me and I’d catch a bus as usual. Once on my way, rushing to school, I saw bus number 14 pass and waited for the next one.

That period of the second intifada was a time of many terror attacks. Three weeks prior, 11 were killed and 51 wounded in Jerusalem’s Rehavia neighborhood when a suicide bomber exploded himself aboard a bus. Such news had become routine.

After boarding the next bus, I noticed another passenger whose appearance seemed suspicious. Wearing a large green coat and jeans, he was clutching a big black bag. I turned to the gentleman sitting next to me and told him I thought I’d sighted a bus bomber. He told me to get off the bus as soon as possible. When I made the move to stand up, the terrorist pushed me back onto the seat, forced the bag filled with explosives onto me, held me with one arm and detonated the bomb with his other.

I remained fully conscious. All I could see was blood; then I began to focus on the other passengers, some dead, others shouting. Oddly, despite the screams, for a time it was deafeningly quiet.

I tried to stand, but fell, not sure if I’d lost my legs or if they just would not respond. I attempted unsuccessfully to lift myself up to escape through the window. Cutting myself on the shattered glass, I dragged myself forward. Though I’d only made it a few feet, I ran out of strength, finding myself next to a soldier who placed his head on me and closed his eyes forever.

As soon as Magen David Adom emergency teams arrived, a paramedic lifted me and tried to find out how to contact my parents. Their reiterated, at first irritating, questions kept me conscious, and probably saved my life. I was rushed by ambulance to the hospital where I was in a coma for two weeks.

Over time I came to understand that my injuries, defined as extremely critical (the most serious of the attack), included collapsed lungs, shrapnel in my head and hands, a fractured skull, third degree burns on my face and hands, and two torn eardrums. Recovery and hospitalization would be difficult and long. Once I was stable, I was transferred to the surgery department for continuing treatment. 

After a month, I was finally released from the hospital. I then underwent eight months rehabilitation, re-learning how to speak, eat on my own, crawl and eventually walk without falling; in short, everything learned during the first years of life. As I had also missed two years of education owing to my extensive rehabilitation, I eventually returned to my studies.

Today, the worst of the injuries are behind me.  I finished my schooling and my national service, worked at a variety of jobs and recently began my B.A. in human resources.  The support received from the National Insurance Institute helps, but does not enable me to pursue the studies of my choice.  I am fortunate ATZUM filled this gap, providing me with direction and a much needed computer. I have greatly benefitted from ATZUM’s determination to aid people like me who have not received sufficient assistance elsewhere. 

Terror times two*

Single parent Moran and her two sons, Yossi, serving in the IDF, and Ami, in second grade, live in Sderot, a town in Israel’s south that has been recurrently bombarded by Kassam rocket and mortar fire from Gaza since April, 2000. Moran, with a minimum-wage job, does her best to support her children financially and emotionally, though their lives are very difficult. November 14, 2012, marked the beginning of “Operation Pillar of Defense”, a military response to extreme escalation of rocket fire into the region. That day the family’s situation took a turn for the worse.

Ashdod synagogue hit by rocket fire - July 22, 2014As Moran was walking Ami to school, a rocket landed near them. They quickly ran to a neighbor’s home and hid in his shelter until the all-clear signal sounded.  It took considerable effort for his mother and the neighbor to calm down Ami and get him to agree to exit the shelter.

Though accustomed to such routine, this near-miss proved devastating. Ami developed severe anxiety, suffered numerous physical ailments, and refused to leave the house or his mother’s side. He was diagnosed with PTSD, for which he was professionally treated.

Less than two years later, July 8, 2014, Operation Defensive Shield (the 2014 Gaza War) was launched to again halt rocket fire from Gaza into Israel. Ami’s PTSD retriggered and worsened, rendering him emotionally unstable and incapable of starting the school year. Today, more than six months after the conclusion of the war, Ami still receives intensive therapy and medication to help tackle life’s daily challenges and treat the chronic bladder and bowel dysfunction connected to his PTSD. Moran also receives parental guidance and social support to develop tools to deal with the situation.

While receiving assistance from many sources, a number of critical needs remain unattended. ATZUM is providing emotional as well as financial support to buy clothing and school supplies and to enable Ami to participate in a number of social and after-school activities. We will remain closely connected to the family to respond to other needs that may arise.


Since 2002, ATZUM’s Roberta Project for Survivors of Terror has facilitated the transfer of $1.25 million in aid, grants and loans to meet subsistence, educational and dental care needs of terror survivors and family members. The Project provides direct assistance to families whose lives have been irreparably shattered, particularly those whose main provider or child was the victim.  While we also assist survivors of the most recent violence, ATZUM specifically works to identify survivors from long-forgotten attacks who are not receiving adequate assistance and are often overlooked by programs of assistance focused on more recent cases.