Police Bust Women-Trafficking, Prostitution Ring in Tel Aviv

Times of Israel

November 29, 2015

Network smuggled Russian and Ukrainian women into Israel and ran brothels in luxury high-rises, investigators charge

The investigation, reported Sunday by Israel Radio, was conducted under the auspices of the Tel Aviv Police and resulted in the arrest of two men suspected of running the trafficking ring.

Additional arrests are expected, the Hebrew-language Walla news site reported.

The suspected ringleader of the group, identified as Leonid Streimer, is a 35-year-old resident of the Tel Aviv suburb of Bat Yam.

The investigation reportedly turned up a complex operation in which the network would locate young Russian and Ukrainian women, some of whom had worked as models, and convince them to come to Israel on tourist visas, promising they would find work amid the difficult economic situations in their home countries.

Once they got to Israel, the women were housed in luxury condominium towers and expensive hotels, where the ring allegedly operated brothels for businessmen and wealthy individuals.

The women would charge significant fees for their sexual services, of which the network operators would get a percentage. A police source told Walla that one woman told investigators she would earn $3,000 or more per week, most of which she would send to her family in Ukraine.

The investigation began following complaints by neighbors in the luxury buildings, who suspected that brothels were being operated near their homes.

In September 2014, police arrested two suspects for running a prostitution ring that consisted of Russian and Ukrainian women brought to Israel on medical tourism visas.

According to the Task Force on Human Trafficking, an alliance of Israeli NGOs, there are 15,000 women working in the sex trade in Israel.


Human Trafficking Into Israel: The Return of a Trend in the Guise of Tourism?

While Israel changed its policies at the urging of the international community and NGOs such as ATZUM, distancing itself from its previous disregard of cross-border human trafficking, trafficking in persons into and within Israel continues.

Indeed, Israel’s failure to address trafficking and prostitution within its own borders is clearly outlined in the American State Department 2014 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, which calls for increased investigation of prostitution of Israeli nationals and stronger sentencing for convicted traffickers.

However, after ATZUM helped lead a successful campaign to reduce trafficking into Israel over the Sinai border, a new phenomenon has emerged. Traffickers and pimps, undeterred by the obstacle of a 245-mile fence now dividing the two countries, are getting creative.

In April 2015, police investigated complaints of individuals suspected of raping and pimping young women in a Holon apartment. The investigation exposed a sophisticated network that systematically “imported” women from Eastern Europe to Israel to work as prostituted sex slaves. The suspects allegedly brought women from Eastern Europe to Israel on tourist visas, but soon forced them into sexual slavery. Often the case, such women are duped and at the mercy of their abusers. This incident comes on the heels of a 2014 extended undercover police operation which revealed the existence of an Israeli-Ukrainian-Russian crime ring that trafficked women into Israel to work as sex slaves. The cover story was that the women were arriving for medical tourism.

If Israel is serious about reducing sex trafficking, closing its borders is a critical but not exhaustive strategy. To be sure, trafficking and pimping are only profitable as long as customers are able to purchase prostitution services, making it imperative Israel criminalize such behavior. ATZUM will reassert its past efforts to assure public attention is redirected to this issue and those responsible for anti-trafficking enforcement are held accountable.

Jewish Community Unites Against Sex Trafficking (Video)

Human trafficking is a $32 billion annual business, with an estimated 70 percent generated by sex trafficking.

ATZUM’s founder and director Rabbi Levi Lauer participated in a powerful conference hosted by UJA-Federation’s Task force on Family Violence, which ATZUM’s Task Force on Human Trafficking helped to organize. Rabbi Lauer and other conference participants are interviewed in this video entitled We Were Slaves: the Jewish Community Unites Against Sex Trafficking.

This 3-minute video explains the urgent need for this initiative and delivers the resounding message: Sex trafficking is our problem and we, the Jewish community, can take steps to stop it. 

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Atzum’s Founding Executive Director Levi Lauer is featured in this video (starting at 2:34)

“Sex trafficking is an abuse of the Divine image, into which every human being was born,” is his core message.

You can learn more about this Jewish communal initiative here: http://www.ujafedny.org/advocate/

Sex Trafficking - YouTube