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.

Event: Fighting Sexual Violence Together!

Here in Israel elections are coming up and everyone has an important decision to make about which party to vote for. If you care about advancing women’s rights, then join ATZUM’s Task Force and The Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel on Sunday, February 15th to hear what the parties have to say about these important issues.

Singer songwriter Shimrit Greilsammer will kick the event off with music from her new album. The concert will be followed by a panel discussion with candidates from across the political spectrum.

Panelists include:

MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli HaBayit HaYehudi
MK Yifat Kariv Yesh Atid
MK Orly Levi-Abekasis Yisrael Beitenu
MK Michal Rozin Meretz
Dr. Anat Berko Likud
Revital Swid Zionist Camp
Rachel Azaria Kulano
Aida Touma-Sliman The Joint List
Ruth Colian B’Zhutan

When: Sunday, February 15th 19:00 – 21:30

Where: HaTachana HaRishona – David Remez 4, Jerusalem

For more details see our event on Facebook:

* We hope to see you all there!

ATZUM’s Activist Beit Midrash TAKUM Reaches Mumbai

Learning Torah; backdrop, the slums of Mumbai

Udaipur, India December 2014
Rose Pollard, GPM JDC Entwine Fall 2014 Fellow

For the past 2 months, I spent my time teaching informal education classes in a slum called Kalwa, just outside of Mumbai. As I taught, sang, and laughed in the tin-hut classrooms with my students, their eagerness and earnest expressions brought me moments of pure fulfillment. The kids’ integrity, cooperation, and joy was humbling, given the conditions of the slum around them. The images I saw every day walking to class still stick with me – naked children scampering across trash piles, pigs, goats and chickens running rampant, and families of 10 living in single, tiny rooms. It was hard to filter the difference between the comforts I am used to and the reality for those in the slums of Mumbai.

rose_takumThe organization I worked with, Gabriel Project Mumbai (GPM), helped me process the contrast. GPM organized Jewish learning classes on social justice with TAKUM led by Shoshana Cohen and Rabbi Levi Lauer. Taking time to learn Torah allowed my cohort and me to take a step back from the overwhelming images and experience in Kalwa. The learning urged us to question the big picture and ask: Why are we here again? What influences brought us to India in the first place, and why is being here important?

As soon as we started reading Torah with Shoshana, I smiled, comforted by the sounds of Hebrew and the transition to analytical thought. We discussed the power of creation – in its definition, in G-d, in ourselves and in every human being. It reminded me of the power I hold as a teacher to shape each lesson and affect a child’s life. Shoshana also urged us to share what made us decide to work with GPM, reconnecting us with what we wanted to get out of the experience. 

Our time with Rabbi Lauer combined the theories of spiritual ideas to our physical work in the slums and vulnerable children with vital significance. He led us through thoughts of leadership, justice, and motivation. One concept he spoke of was the necessity to “pursue meaning, instead of comfort.” I have since considered this idea many times, asking myself:  how can I push the boundaries of discomfort to pursue growth – both in the communities I touch and myself? Rabbi Lauer’s session revealed that this question has been asked for eons, and the struggle of finding and pursuing meaning is everywhere in Jewish text.

newsletter pic takumThe sessions allowed my fellow volunteers and me to connect on a deeper level. As my new friends piped up around me, engaging and offering insightful thoughts, I felt a new appreciation for each of them. After spending so much time living, planning, and joking with one another, we were suddenly relating in a new way. Bouncing off one idea to another, we were able to appreciate each other intellectually, which for me added a meaningful layer to our cohort.

The discussions were invigorating and I left each session with new energy to bring to the classroom. I gained perspective on the discomforts and contrast in the slum– urging me to seek the meaning beyond it. From the steadfast sense of community to the boundless happiness of my students, there is so much to learn from those in Kalwa. I have Rabbi Lauer and Shoshana to thank for helping me to seek this meaning and allowing it to bring profound personal growth to my time with GPM.  


Rabbi Levi Lauer to Present at Jewish Women’s Foundation of Palm Beach

JWF - Feb 2015 Florida conference with LL-resized

Recognizing Righteous Rescuer Jaroslawa and ATZUM volunteer Katya

“Righteous Among the Nations” is official terminology to identify those, who, at great risk to themselves, protected and helped save Jewish life during the Shoah. RAN (Righteous Among the Nations), a direct service initiative established by ATZUM, has ensured for the past 12 years that every Righteous Rescuer living in Israel receives support not provided through Bituah Leumi (Israel’s National Insurance Institute) or other public or private resources, making certain that these heroes among us feel appreciated. Here is the story of one Righteous Rescuer and the ATZUM volunteer who has become her long-time companion.

Katya1Jaroslawa’s Story:  When the Ukrainian town of Zloczow was occupied by Germany in July, 1941, its Jewish citizens were subjected to horrific restrictions and suffering. Aleksander Lewicki surreptitiously began to supply his Jewish neighbors with basic supplies, medicine, and shelter. Aleksander’s bravery was matched by that of his courageous daughter, Katarzyna, and granddaughter, Jaroslawa, whose youth allowed them to act as his couriers without awakening the suspicion of the Ukrainian guards.

The three continued their clandestine efforts until the murder of 6,000 Zloczow Jews by the Germans and Ukrainian nationalists in April, 1943. Among the few survivors were two Jewish girls whom the Lewickis protected until July, 1944, when the area was liberated. The Lewickis also fed 25 other Jews hiding in the basement of a ruined house two kilometers away, despite the distance and great danger. On September 21, 1989, Yad Vashem recognized Aleksander, Katarzyna, and Jaroslawa Lewicki as Righteous Among the Nations.

In Israel, Finally: Jaroslawa, who stayed in Ukraine after the war, faced increasingly bleak social and economic conditions. She visited Israel in 1995 at the invitation of one of the people she had saved, and decided stay and accept Israeli citizenship, settling in Haifa. While some Righteous Rescuers came to Israel soon after Statehood, learned Hebrew, and integrated fairly well into society, others, especially the later arrivals like Jaroslawa, have struggled, their strongest connection to Jews remaining their wartime acts of heroism.

Jaroslawa, now 79, lives alone in a hostel for the elderly. In the words of RAN program coordinator, Levana Dorum: “Jaroslawa a remarkable woman, once told me that there was nothing left in her life except loneliness. All those who mattered to her have passed away, including her closest friend in Israel, one of the many men she saved. She is Christian, which often complicates her life in the hostel where all other residents are Jewish and fluent Hebrew speakers.”

Earlier this year, ATZUM arranged for a Russian-speaking chaplain to visit Jaroslawa to provide much needed spiritual and emotional care. However, it is Katya, a young Israeli Ukranian and Russian-speaking student who has been her steady anchor. This wonderfully dedicated ATZUM volunteer has visited Jaroslawa weekly since making aliyah as a teenager from Belarus in 2006.

ATZUM encourages and offers opportunities for Israeli youth to volunteer time and energy with the dwindling community of Righteous Rescuers in Israel. That Katya and Jaroslawa’s connection has endured so many years, during which Katya completed her army service and B.A, studies and is now pursuing a graduate degree in special education, is remarkably inspiring.

In describing her visits with Jaroslawa, Katya notes that, “Over time, our meetings have become less my giving to her and more our giving to one another. Our talks have become more open, full of emotional sharing. Far from growing apart, we continue to grow closer.Jaroslava is a remarkable woman I am privileged to know. She is a treasured part of my life; her company fills my grandmother’s place and gives me so very much.

ATZUM is privileged to recognize Jaroslawa for her bravery, and Katya for honoring the humanity of all Righteous Rescuers.

Task Force on Human Trafficking: Facing New Political Realities

Facing new political realities

The 19th Knesset lasted 671 days, less than half its designated term. The government’s vote to dissolve on December 8, 2014 and call for early elections in March 2015 was a blow to those working to bring about critical legislative reforms to protect vulnerable populations. Many important initiatives have been shelved, at least for the time being. Understanding social change as a marathon, not a sprint, the work of ATZUM’s Task Force on Human Trafficking (TFHT) continues.

For the past three years, TFHT has called for 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 coerced girl or woman victim of childhood rape and/or incest. Following the dissolution of the 18th Knesset (February 24, 2009 – February 5, 2013), during which important strides were made with then MK Orit Zuaretz, TFHT maintained and increased its efforts.

From the day the most recent Knesset was sworn in, THFT lobbied and worked tirelessly with government officials from various ministries to advance the complicated process of presentation of legislation through its passage into law. (For detailed information, please see “Primer on Passing Legislation Based on the Nordic Model“.) Perhaps our most significant accomplishment of the past 22 months was bringing to the table three MKs from parties of considerably different political orientation — MK Zahava Gal-On (Meretz), MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli, and MK David Tzur (HaTnuah). In the next Knesset, the strategy will remain the same as we collaborate with those parties with which we have established ongoing relationships.

The next 100 days

There is much to be done to keep the issue front and center and assure we do not lose traction gained. Among other things, our work will focus on:

Legislation: Continue to liaise with past and potential legislators, and the NGO, academic, and law enforcement communities to author comprehensive legislation providing broader protection of prostituted persons than that previously tabled. Such legislation will more comprehensively address issues of demand, deterrents, and rehabilitation.

Legal: Bring to justice individuals renting or managing hundreds of brothels and “discrete apartments” openly operating with impunity; challenge increasing incidents of police violence against prostituted persons, particularly those from the LGBT community.

Advocacy and Social Action: Marshal our “Project 119” international volunteer corps in new ways during this transition between governments to better inform government ministry officials, influential media persons and Diaspora Jewish communal leadership.

Education: Facilitate continuing and new service-learning programs with the aim of encouraging informed activism towards the abolishment of trafficking and prostitution in Israel and the Diaspora.

Stay tuned

TFHT and our long-time pro bono partners which include the law firm of Kabiri-Nevo-Keidar and advertising company Y&R-Israel are committed to changing the social norms and criminal “industries” which allow women and girls to be exploited and diminished. No matter the obstacles placed in our path, we shall persevere for the stakes of human suffering and slavery are too high to abandon. To understand the need for a full-out attack on the prostitution industry, please view this 5-minute hard-hitting piece aired by Israel Social TV (with English subtitles) called The Customer Is Not Always Right.

Shop at Amazon and Support ATZUM

ATZUM is pleased to announce our participation in the AmazonSmile program. AmazonSmile is a simple and automatic way for you to support ATZUM every time you shop, at no cost to you.

Amazon will donate 0.5% of the price of your eligible AmazonSmile purchases to ATZUM whenever you shop on AmazonSmile.

AmazonSmile is the same Amazon you know. You’ll find the exact same products, low prices, service and convenient shopping experience as, with the added bonus that Amazon will make a donation to ATZUM every time you make a purchase.





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The fate of over 200 Nigerian girls has dominated international headlines for nearly a month.  YouTube Preview Image

These girls, aged 12-18, were kidnapped from their school by an Islamic terrorist group, held hostage and forced to convert to Islam. Shocking video footage that went viral depicts disturbing images of young girls terrified for their lives. Yet more tragic, this terrorist group is known to brutally rape their hostages, turning their captives into sex slaves.

As the global community mobilizes to attempt to end this month-long kidnapping-rape, and by extension all modern versions of human trafficking, political leaders and influential personalities are demonstrating concern via social media.  Most notably, First Lady Michelle Obama, posted a selfie holding a sign of #bringbackourgirls.

michelle obama

While digital advocacy efforts to sign an online petition have produced greater attention and resonance, the #BringBackOurGirls campaign seems a profoundly inadequate response. 


More than three weeks after Islamic extremists abducted the girls, world outrage is galvanizing Twitter and other social-media networks.  As advocates of ending human trafficking in Israel, and across the world, please help our efforts to indeed #BringBackOurGirls. 



You Can Never Kill a People With Hate

Today, we honor the memories of those we lost and the strength of those we’ve had the fortune to meet. Each candle that was once extinguished prematurely, now shines a brighter light, warming the darkness of our lives.  


Today is Yom Hashoa, the Holocaust day of memorial. Tonight, we walk the paths of memories that were left for us; memories of our families, our communities, our peoplehood. We remember the love, the loss, the courage and the strength to survive. We scribe the memories into our hearts as a reminder of who we were and who we continue to be. 
Seen on the streets of New York, this woman reminds us that “you can never kill a people with hate.”

“I lived in Poland, so we were persecuted from the first day of the war. First they took us from our home, then they put us in a ghetto, then they made us march, then they sent us to the camps. I was separated from everyone, but my brother later told me that my father froze to death. But I have children now, and grandchildren, and great grandchildren– a great big family, all of them educated. Look at everything that came from just one person who escaped. Just goes to show that you can never kill a people with hate. There will always be someone left to carry on.” – Humans of New York, Sept 6, 2013.