Important Update from ATZUM’s Task Force on Human Trafficking

TFHT-rally for G

For the last two weeks, Israel society has been deeply engaged in a dialogue about the evils of prostitution. The intensive public discourse on the exploitation of vulnerable, prostituted girls and women was triggered by a tragic event.

On August 13, G, a 36-year-old woman who made aliyah from the FSU at age 15 and had been prostituted for half her life, committed suicide in the brothel in which she was raped and abused nightly by 20-30 johns, six nights a week.

The place where this tragedy took place, located at 98 Hayarkon Street in the heart of Tel-Aviv, and in operation for a decade, is one of the area’s 200-250 brothels and “discrete” apartments well known to law enforcement agencies. It is also where nearly 900 Israelis gathered on August 22 to mourn G’s death, urge society to confront the brutal cost of prostitution, and act to assure its abolishment.

The event in G’s memory was organized by ATZUM-TFHT and a national coalition of NGOs working on related issues. The aim was to bring public awareness to the many other nameless, faceless women suffering the same debasement, who too often feel that they have no choice but to take their own lives in order to escape.

The evening began with somber reading of a list of 42 women who died in the last five years due to prostitution and trafficking. A moment of silence followed. NGO coalition members, Members of Knesset (MKs), and mayoral advisors spoke, as did women who had escaped prostitution. The mourners eventually moved to block the entrance to the brothel where G died and where johns were seen still entering the building. Two women prostituted in the same brothel joined the memorial service and told one of the other organizers, “Kol hakavod, good that you woke up. It really says something to us that so many people came to honor G. You just can’t imagine how many other G’s there are.”

TFHT has been in the Hebrew and English-language news (print, radio, and television) daily since publishing a public death notice in G’s name, a customary practice in Israel upon the passing of a loved one or revered member of the community. This itself was extraordinary—the first time that respectful notification of the death of a person identified as a prostitute was published.

G’s tragic end is important, a defining moment which insists Israel society open its eyes and take action. Her death lifts the veil that cloaks the public’s misconception that women choose prostitution, a falsehood perpetrated by those who claim it to be a harmless personal choice, and one that facilitates a woman’s independence. And who is actually claiming this to be true but the johns whose demand for sex finances prostitution and the pimps and traffickers who are the true beneficiaries of the flesh trade.

Einat Harel, 51, known as the Tel-Aviv Madam, who ran a brothel for nearly a decade, was interviewed on the August 31 segment of Channel Two’s highly popular Friday night program regarding her most recent indictment on charges of pimping, soliciting for prostitution and money laundering.  Without compunction, Harel suggested the police pursue “real criminals” instead of hounding those who seek to facilitate free enterprise. The public outcry was tremendous.  The interviewer was slammed for giving this woman a platform to glamorize and legitimize prostitution as a simple lifestyle choice. 

“I am glad to say viewers saw through Harel’s lie and are starting to engage in a serious manner,” said Michal Leibel, a lawyer and TFHT Director. Speaking in an August 24 interview in Media Line, Leibel argued that “Legalization has been shown to increase demand for prostitution, as the trade becomes legal and therefore no longer taboo…[failing] in its attempts to improve the lives of [the prostituted person]…Violence and sexual attacks towards [the] prostitute[d], and women as a whole across society, may increase in a culture where women can be purchased freely.”This is intolerable.

ATZUM, its TFHT co-founder the law firm Kabiri-Nevo-Keidar, and our philanthropic partners mourn G whose suicide prompts us to redouble efforts to ensure passage and enactment of law based on Nordic Model legislation, the international standard designed to criminalize pimps and johns and protect the prostituted person.

As the Knesset is currently in recess, our continuing lobbying efforts of MKs and government ministers must wait a few more weeks. However, we are in ongoing contact with Shuli Moalem Rafaeli (Ha Bayit Hehudi), Zehava Gal-On (Meretz) and Merav Michaeli (Zionist Union) who support our cause and are dedicated to promoting the bill the Task Force recently authored.

Hopefully, G’s death will be written in Israel history as the pivotal moment in the cause of criminalizing johns and supporting survivors of prostitution; hopefully, one day her real name will be known as a source for pride and respect.

Note: An in depth interview with Michal Leibel will follow in the coming days and an update from P119 will soon be issued. Recent English-language posts:




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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’re Invited to ATZUM’s Event in Chicago on October 8

Please join us for the eighth annual gathering of the Chicago chapter of Friends of ATZUM: Providing direct assistance to survivors of terror in Israel


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

7:00 p.m.

at the home of Lisa and Todd Fishbein

833 Kimballwood Lane, Highland Park

Please RSVP to


We will be joined by

Rabbi Levi D. Lauer

Founding Executive Director, ATZUM


 Yael & Micha Hershkovitz

Terror and Beyond: Relentless Memory, Old Wounds and New Dreams


About Yael Hershkovitz

yael picYael Hershkovitz, a practicing attorney, was born in 1977 in Ashdod and grew up in Jerusalem. Her army service was completed in the Ministry of Defense.

In 2004, on her way to work, Yael was gravely injured in a central Jerusalem, terrorist bus bombing that murdered 11 Israelis and injured many more. Gravely wounded, Yael

suffered facial burns and severe head, hearing and sight injuries and other wounds. She endured a lengthy hospitalization and prolonged, difficult rehabilitation, which included repeated surgeries to reconstruct her scalp, improve her eyesight and hearing, and repair extensive facial scarring.

Less than a year after the attack, with incalculable courage and determination, Yael began her BA studies in law and, soon after passing the qualifying exams and internship, began her LLM. In 2011, she married Micha Hershkovitz. They are currently living in San Diego where Micha is studying for an MBA and where, during the past year, Yael underwent three additional surgeries related to her hearing injury.

 We are fortunate to have Yael and Micha as our guests to share their story.

“Women For Sale:” ATZUM at the International Women’s Conference, Jerusalem

International Women's Conference JerusalemOn August 6th, ATZUM’s Task Force on Human Trafficking presented at the International Women’s Conference in Jerusalem. Young social activists from around the world, including North America, Europe, and Africa attended the conference.

Throughout the three-day conference they heard presentations on a variety of issues including the role of women in Israeli society and army, tools for change, and the challenges faced when attempting to blend traditional and modern values. Political leaders, businesswomen, journalists, and social activists gave presentations focusing on their experiences, work, and how to move Israel closer to gender equality.

TFHT’s Rebecca Hughes presentation was entitled “Women For Sale: Confronting Sex Trafficking and Prostitution in Israel.”

“Being able to speak to a group of people who are so motivated and committed to advancing equality was a privilege,” remarked Hughes. “Prostitution and sex trafficking are international issues, and if we are going to affect change we all need to be in this together. This conference was a great opportunity to start a conversation about how we can address these issues as an international community.”



Empowerment Program for Ethiopian Youth Collecting Filmed and Oral Histories of Prisoners of Zion

ATZUM is embarking on an intergenerational project in the Ethiopian community, bringing together Ethiopian youth and Ethiopian Prisoners of Zion. The category “Prisoners of Zion” was established by the State of Israel for those who were imprisoned (and many severely tortured) for at least six months prior to making aliya as a result of their Zionist organized activities. While this group includes Arab country immigrants and several FSU immigrants, by far the most at-risk and least well organized are the Ethiopian Prisoners of Zion.

To shed light on their struggle to reach Israel, and to provide incentive and foundation for their communities better integration into Israel society, ATZUM seeks to establish Project Ahbrah (=illuminate in Amharic). The project will embrace 12-18 Ethiopian 11th-12th graders to work in small teams/havrutot. Those teams, with computers and video cameras, will interview the Prisoners of Zion, providing their elders with the satisfaction of permanently recorded accounts of their heroism, and providing their descendants with a deeper sense of pride in those elders’ courage and sacrifice. This is crucial to an environment in which there too often exists a tragically, profoundly dislocating alienation among Ethiopian generations in Israel.

Further, ATZUM will provide a framework for these meetings, building the background and skills for these encounters as well as creating a place to share experiences and ideas. We’ll seek to teach and demonstrate some basic grass-roots community organizing skills to encourage these students to become agents of change in their communities. In addition to the youth being involved in the filming process, we aspire to involve young videographers and producers from the Ethiopian community to guide the technical process. This will allow them to serve as a role model for the youth and give the videographers an opportunity to advance in their professions. We note that we are also committed to a very careful process of assessment and consultation with Ethiopian organizations and initiatives to reign in any temptation to an arrogant presumption of “what’s best for the Ethiopian communities”.

Thus, we see this project as mutually empowering both the Ethiopian youth and the Prisoners of Zion: the youth with stories, pride in their heritage, news skills and a formative experience on the eve of joining the IDF or National Service; and the Prisoners of Zion with a chance to share their stories with the younger generation, document these stories and get a deeper sense of honor and respect from Israel society which they rightly deserve.

Save the Date – Chicago-Highland Park Annual Event

Save the date for the Chicago-Highland Park Annual Event


Date:  Tuesday, Dec. 8th, 2009
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Location: Swislow family: 2313 Sheridan Road, Highland Park, IL

Please RSVP: Nada Popovic

If you do not live in Chicago but know people who do, please forward the information to them.  For more information contact Sara Wenger.

This year’s keynote speaker is Survivor of Terror, Miri Furstenberg.

Miri FurstenbergMiri Furstenberg, 61, lives in Rishon Lezion and is the widowed mother of two and grandmother of four. She is a survivor of the Ma’ale Akrabim massacre, an attack on a bus that killed eleven passengers including her entire family.

On March 16, 1954, an Egged bus carrying 14 passengers made its way from Eilat to Tel Aviv. As the bus ascended a steep grade it was ambushed by Jordanian and Palestinian gunmen who killed the driver, Miri’s father, as well as passengers who tried to escape. The terrorists then boarded the bus, shot and raped the surviving passengers, including Miri’s mother. Among four survivors, two severely injured, was five-year-old Miri Furstenberg, spared by the heroic act of an Israeli soldier who defended her with his body. Miri’s 10 year old brother was mortally wounded and remained in a vegetative state until his death in 1986.

Miri grew up an orphan on a kibbutz, without rehabilitation, her experience typical of many terror survivors from Israel’s early years when the State was ill-equipped to address their needs. Despite Miri’s traumatic, emotionally disadvantaged childhood, she worked hard to rebuild her life, raised and supported two children. In addition to now working long hours as a taxi driver for some of Israel’s most prominent professionals, Miri volunteers helping poverty stricken families as well as mentally retarded adults.

Miri frequently contemplates why she survived. She believes she lived in order to help others in distress.

NY Fundraising Concert Raises $5250 for ATZUM

NY Benefit ConcertOn May 21st, 2009 in celebration of “Yom Yerushalayim”, the Conservative Synagogue of Fifth Avenue hosted a benefit concert for ATZUM featuring internationally acclaimed musician Andy Statman. It was a successful and delightful evening filled with inspiration and magnificent music. Hazzan Bat-Ami Moses introduced the evening with Psalms and an overview of ATZUM’s powerful impact on Israeli society. Rabbi David Gaffney shared words of the significance of “Jerusalem Day.” For the next hour the sold out house was blessed with  two sets of music featuring the genius of Andy Statman‘s clarinet and mandolin. He was accompanied by two superb musicians, Larry Eagle on percussion and Jim Whitney on bass. The evening closed with Rabbi Levi Lauer’s comments on how meaningful and important our support in the States is to the work of ATZUM and its projects assisting Israeli survivors of terror, banishing human trafficking from Israel and honoring those Righteous Among the Nations who live in Israel. We thank all of our supporters and contributors for making this event so special and successful!

Dallas Highschool Raises Money for ATZUM

Points for Peace

Points for Peace is an annual fundraising basketball tournament organized and staffed by Dallas’ Yavneh Academy of high school students. It is a project of Students Against Terrorism, a student-run organization whose goal is to demonstrate solidarity with Israel and support Israeli terror victims.

Students of Dallas Yavne highschoolEveryone who participated in the 2009 Points For Peace Basketball Tournament walked away a winner. With $50,000 raised and donated to ATZUM, the student led organization is celebrating a seventh tournament which has provided a day of community spirit in helping those in Israel who have suffered due to terrorism.

Since 2002, SAT has, through learn-a-thons, the annual “Points for Peace” basketball tournament, the sale of “StandStrong4Israel” bracelets, and other programs, raised over $300,000. Monies have supported an Israeli family whose son was injured in a bombing in 2001, paid for half of an ambulance for the Magen David Adom, monies have been sent to support Camp Koby, which provides a nurturing camp program to children of families struck by terrorism and the Keren Malka Foundation which provides long-term no-cost loans of specialized and expensive home equipment; walkers, standers, special wheelchairs, bath inserts, bed lifts and more.

“This year we chose ATZUM because of the sincerity and passion we saw in its founder, Levi Lauer,” said Brittney Herson ’09, Points for Peace president. “Rabbi Lauer came all the way from Israel to speak with SAT about his personal mission and dedication to his organization. The personal stories of all of the people he had helped, and the lives he has saved, made us want to help.” “These young ladies and gentlemen are incredible and every day school in the country should sponsor a Students Against Terrorism organization,” said Rabbi Lauer. “I’m so impressed with their commitment, their concern, and their contributions to making this world a better place. We, at ATZUM, are honored to be the recipient of the monies raised at this year’s Points for Peace tournament and, with the help of these dedicated students and all who participate, we will continue to help many.”

“Rabbi Lauer made us feel so special for our hard work, and in turn inspired us,” said Brittney. “For him to be at our event and partake and volunteer and see all of our efforts in play was amazing and it truly completed the day and made it extra special.”

“We went door-to-door and it was amazing that, even when so many people are having hard times, we were still able to collect so much money,” said Tali Richman, a member of The Power Rangers team which won their division (7-8th grade girls) and who raised a record $2000 for one team. “Kohl’s donated $500 and that helped a lot. We love playing in the tournament but this was about so much more than basketball, it was more about doing for others. Israel is our homeland and to see it torn by war is upsetting. Anything we can do to help, we want to do.”

“I hope that through Points for Peace we were able to open the eyes and hearts of the Jewish community,” said Brittney. “We want to empower them and let everyone know how even the smallest contribution makes a huge difference.”