Archives for October 2015

Court Temporarily Closes Tel Aviv Brothel


The person registered as leasing the building is a homeless drug addict, according to evidence submitted to the court.


The brothel at Hayarkon 98, Tel Aviv Credit: Gilad Lieberman

Vered Lee Oct 20, 2015 
A Tel Aviv brothel has been shut down for 90 days – the longest period allowable by law – during which time prosecutors are expected to issue indictments against individuals involved in its operation.
Located at 98 Hayarkon Street, the brothel has been in existence for 13 years. It made the headlines in August, when a 36-year-old sex worker known only as Jessica hanged herself in the brothel room in which she lived and worked.
The brothel resumed activity immediately following the death, despite a public campaign calling for its closure. A number of protests were held outside the building.
Appearing before the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court on Monday, attorney Igor Yutkin, represented the owner of the building Dalia Trofa, argued that the building was a motel, rather than a brothel, and that Trofa had no knowledge of prostitution on the premises. Yutkin added that there were no grounds to close the premises and that the owners had never previously been indicted.
It was revealed during the hearing that the individual registered as leasing the building is a homeless drug addict living in Tel Aviv’s central bus station. When the police summoned him to court, he said that he was not interested in the proceedings and that he did not oppose having the place shut down.
“I’m under the impression the building is a brothel,” the judge wrote in her ruling, adding that “there is a substantial basis for suspicion that the site will be used for criminal activity and resume functioning as a brothel unless an order is issued.” She said her statements were based on evidence collected at the site, including testimony from women who have worked there.
The judge stressed that closure orders had been issued against the site in the past and that police had informed Trofa that it was being used as a brothel.
“Many police investigations into the property have produced evidence showing that the property is used to provide sex services in exchange for payment,” she said. “Women are required to leave half of the fees they receive with those who run the site, and evidences shows that the business is run by a woman who coordinates meetings, as well as a guard who remains onsite.”
Prosecution attorney Dalia Abramoff said in response to the ruling that “the closure order handed down by the court is part of the country’s ongoing struggle against prostitution and abuse of female sex workers. A clear cry of support was issued today by the court in favor of the police and prosecutor’s efforts to protect female sex workers.”
The hearing was attended by representatives of various organizations opposed to prostution, as well as many Knesset members. Attorney Michal Liebel, from the Task Force on Human Trafficking, said that “the message here today is very clear. This ruling dissolves the ambiguity and clearly states that anyone involved in running a brothel – from owning the site, to renting it, to coordinating with customers – is part of the problem, and that the time has come to attack this problem, and eradicate it.”



Sex is not a Commodity, Women are not Objects

Photo: Eliav Lilti לילטי אליאב

Photo: Eliav Lilti לילטי אליאב

A few weeks ago we wrote about the suicide of “Jessica” (previously referred to as G.) a young woman, prostituted for 15 years, who hanged herself at 98 HaYarkon Street brothel in Tel-Aviv rather than endure one more night’s repeated rapes.  

Immediately following this tragedy, THFT posted public notice of her death, as is customary following the loss of a loved one; co-authored a letter to government and municipal authorities calling for immediate closure of the brothel; and was at the helm of organizing a memorial event attended by 900 people in front of the brothel.

Following that gathering, we sensed public opinion was shifting, that people were beginning to understand the prostituted woman as a target and the john as a perpetrator of paid rape. Jessica’s life and death brought to the forefront the widely held, convenient and long-disproved myth of prostitution as a chosen profession. People now better recognize prostitution is most often systematized, sanctioned abuse, exploitation and rape. 

Last week, an urgent petition was issued to the Tel-Aviv Magistrate’s Court, requesting participation as Friends of the Court (Amicus Curiae) in the Attorney General’s proceedings requesting closurer of the brothel. Member organizations of the TFHT facilitated Coalitzia l’ Ma’avak Bznut (Coalition for the Fight Against Prostitution) as well as the following Members of Knesset (MKs) joined the petition:

  1. MK Rachel Azaria (Kulanu)
  2. MK Merav Ben-Ari (Kulanu)
  3. MK Karin Elharar (Yesh Atid)
  4. MK Zehava Gal-On (Meretz)
  5. MK Yael German (Yesh Atid)
  6. MK Aliza Lavi (Yesh Atid)
  7. MK Merav Michaeli (Hamahane HaZioni)
  8. MK Shuli Moalem Refaeli (HaBayit HaYehudi),
  9. MK Michal Rozin (Meretz)
  10. MK Nahman Shai (Hamahane HaZioni)
  11. MK Aida Toma Suleimann (HaReshima Hameshutefet)
  12. MK Revital Swed (Hamahane HaZioni)
  13. MK Tamar Zandberg (Meretz)

The petition asserted that the space on 98 HaYarkon Street, far from being the innocent motel its owners’ claimed it to be, served as a prison for women in prostitution forcing their subjugation under grueling psychological pressure leading to extreme measures of last resort and suicide. The fact that the brothel has operated for years in plain sight of the public and law enforcement reveals the unbearable ease with which such a place can exist and women can be abused, despite Israel law prohibiting pimping, renting, and maintaining a brothel.

The petition was heard and the presiding judge, Ronit Poznanski-Katz, rejected the owners’ claims they did not know a brothel was operating at the location. The judge issued an order barring operation of the property by its owners until her final determination is heard October 19.

Comments regarding the issuance of the petition…

MK Toma Suleimann:  “The brothel on 98 HaYarkon Street must be closed immediately. It is a hub of hard-core offenses against women, of their mental and physical abuse, a prison from which their only escape is suicide. We will no longer accept the feeble contempt with which the police and law enforcement system confront these places. The women in this building are the weakest in our society and we must voice their cry of anguish, protect them and protect our entire society.”

Adv. Michal Leibel, Director of ATZUM’s Task Force on Human Trafficking“The coalition congratulates the decision by the prosecution and the police to bring to justice the owners of the house on 98 HaYarkon Street. The goal of the petition to participate as Friends of the Court is to highlight the public interest and voice an unequivocal statement against the abuse of women and the prostitution industry in Israel.”

Another tragic situation is now making headlines. While the incident occurred a few months ago, video footage of its unfolding was recently leaked on social media and aired on Israel television. The video showed a young woman, extremely intoxicated and unaware of her surroundings, being sexually abused by many men at Tel-Aviv’s popular Allenby 40 night club, in full view of the other customers, some cheering the abusers on.  This is not an isolated situation. Drugs and sexual violence and abuse, are notoriously part of the Tel-Aviv Thursday nightclub scene.

With public anger over the incident growing, two young women formed a group and organized a protest.  After opening an event on Facebook, thousands of people from around the country immediately showed interest in the event that took place on October 6, in front of the night club.

The group, knowing of TFHT’s recent experience organizing a large scale evening in memory of Jessica, approached us. TFHT’s Director Michal Leibel advised them on how to secure police permits and facilitated the event’s technical arrangements. She also addressed the participants with widely reported effect. The Middle East Eye cited Michal’s assertion that such exploitation of a young woman was a consequence of living in a society where sex is an easily stolen commodity. Below is an excerpt from her address:

There is a connection between what happened at Allenby 40 and 98 HaYarkon.  In both instances, the female body was taken and used.

The Task Force on Human Trafficking opposes the exploitation of all people – men and women – in prostitution and other situations. This is not a fight against sex, sexuality or sexual freedom. This is a struggle against exploitation, against the use of people, against the common perception it is OK to abuse others for sexual gratification.

We do not want to live in a society where it is permissible to buy sex. Sex is not a commodity. Sex is not a product. 

Prostitution is the most extreme example of sexual exploitation – and the change has to start from the extreme.  Why the most extreme?  Because in allowing prostitution, we accept sexual exploitation; we allow paid rape. 

If we want to say no to rape – we must say no to paid rape.

Help us pass a Nordic Model in Israel.

So that the next generation will know buying sex is not an option.

So that the next generation will know taking sex is not an option.

So that the next generation will know that using women is not an option.


Michal’s speech (in Hebrew) can be heard and viewed here: CLICK.

For more information on how to get more involved in TFHT’s work and to support our efforts, please contact

TFHT’s International Reach

Michal_Leibel_picTFHT Director Michal Leibel spent much of the Sukkot holiday attending an international conference in Nicosia, Cyprus.  The “International Best Practices in Combating Human Trafficking” Conference was organized by PRIO and hosted by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in partnership with the Swedish and Norwegian Ministries for Foreign Affairs. Researchers, funders, direct service providers, policy makers and activists from Cyprus, Greece, Turkey, Ukraine, UK, USA, Germany, Austria and Sweden, Israel and the Palestinian Terriroties gathered to discuss issues such as victim services, public policy, legislation, the allocation of resources towards law enforcement and rehabilitation and the need for close collaboration between the authorities and civil society.

Michal was the only Israeli invited to speak at the conference.  In her presentation she related to Israel’s current position on trafficking and prostitution; the Task Force’s tireless commitment to pass Nordic Model legislation designed to criminalize johns and protect prostituted women; and TFHT’s recent efforts to author more comprehensive legislation than that considered by any previous Israeli government.  

Her lecture was exceptionally clear, impassioned and thoughtful as she spoke about the link between trafficking and prostitution and the need to always remember the person behind the label. She related to her many experiences working both at the policy level and in her face-to-face contact with women who have managed to escape both prostitution and the notion of victimhood, as they begin to see themselves as survivors. 

In her concluding remarks she noted: “…I think we should be wary of seeing prostituted people only, or mostly, as victims, not because they weren’t harmed, abused and wronged, but because by treating them as mere victims we risk ignoring their agency, life experience and strength. No one wants to be a victim, and most people don’t want to be looked at as victims. Therefore, I believe that we should see prostituted women – both survivors and those still in prostitution – as partners worth listening to, even though it sometimes mean to compromise and change our ideas about prostitution.”  Her words remind us all to move beyond stereotypes and bring this group of women back into society’s fold.