The Customer is Not Always Right

Israel Social TV
Mar 3, 2014

The sex industry in Israel generates nearly two billion shekels a year. Thousands of women find themselves trapped in the prostitution cycle due to sexual abuse in childhood, along with severe social and economic circumstances. The bill proposes to take legal actions against clients of prostitution services passed its preliminary reading in the Knesset, and social organizations are now trying to push for final passage. Implementation of the law is expected to cost a lot of money. There is concern that to pass the law, the rehabilitation track will be removed from the law. Therefore, these women engaging in prostitution for lack of choice will lose their source of income and also the possibility of rehabilitation.




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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. 



Report: 1 Million Visits to Prostituted Women in Israel Monthly

More than one million times each month, prostituted persons are exploited in Israel, according to an investigative report by Israel’s Channel 1 TV.

Gili Varon, Director of ATZUM's Task Force on Human Trafficking, being interviewed as part of the Channel 1 expose

Gili Varon, Director of ATZUM’s Task Force on Human Trafficking, being interviewed as part of the Channel 1 expose

The report exposed the extensive prostitution “industry” throughout Israel and the abuse, exploitation and misery of the thousands of women who are prostituted to serve the demand for paid sexual services.  

“Is there such a thing as a woman who wants to be in prostitution?” the reporter asked a formerly prostituted woman, who now works in a shelter helping other women and girls exit the nightmare and rebuild their lives.

“There is no such thing as a woman who goes into prostitution because that’s what she wants to do,” was her response. “It’s nothing more than emotional and physical abuse. It slowly murders your soul. I’ve never met anyone who does it by choice.”

The report explores possible solutions to this widespread degradation of women’s rights and dignity in Israel, including  the campaign to adopt the Nordic Model, which ATZUM is spearheading.

The Nordic Model criminalizes the purchase of sexual services, while decriminalizing the sale of such services. It thus protects vulnerable women, by sending a strong message that buying sex is not to be tolerated.  The model originated in Sweden, which has seen a major decrease in prostitution since its introduction, as well as a shift in the society’s view of people who buy sexual services.

Gili Varon, Director of ATZUM’s Task Force’ on Human Trafficking, was interviewed as part of the TV report. She was asked to respond to those who say that the sale and purchase of sex should be legalized and regulated, as opposed to the Nordic Model. 

“The model of regulated prostitution is unconscionable from a moral standpoint, and in fact it has failed in those countries where it has been implemented,” Gili said in her interview. “We have to pursue the proposed legislation to criminalize buying sex, whereby criminal status is imposed on buyers. They are perpetuating this injustice and exploiting women who have been fallen to a low place due to difficult life circumstances.”

View the full Channel 1 report here (in Hebrew):

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This report highlights the urgent need for action against the prostitution scourge in Israel. 

To learn more about ATZUM’s campaign to fight prositution in Israel, visit the Task Force on Human Trafficking

Who Cares About Murdered Prostitutes in Israel?

On August 26th, an article by ATZUM’s Task Force on Human Trafficking’s Rebecca Hughes’s was published on the Times of Israel website, entitled ‘Murdering a ‘Certain Kind’ of Woman’.

The article discusses the recent case of the murder of a prostituted woman in Tel Aviv.

It also explores other stories of murdered prostitutes, along with the societal and psychological issues that lead to one class of persons being so at-risk.

You can read the article here

The Painful Silence: Terrorism’s Forgotten Victims

The Times of Israel

December 18, 2012

By Gila Berdichev

In September, US Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed by terrorists who stormed the US Embassy. Just a few weeks later, a car bomb killed Lebanese security chief Wissam al-Hassan. And last month, a serious Hamas offensive sent rockets into Israeli cities previously thought invulnerable, killing five and wounding 70 private citizens. Now, our brothers and sisters in the United States are reeling from a mass execution at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, an act of extreme violence that left 26 dead, including 20 young children.

Unfortunately, this latest surge of violence circumventing the globe is nothing new.Over the last year, I have heard stories about many other attacks, bombings and grisly murders around the world – premeditated acts of terror as well as impulsive and senseless acts of violence.

When terror acts occur in Israel, we pray that there are no fatalities. When one man is killed, it is as though the whole country has a lost a father, brother, husband or friend. When one young girl dies, all of Israel mourns the death of their little girl. In the hours after an attack, we focus on the death toll. And if there are no fatalities, we breathe a deep sigh of relief and go about our day. [Read more…]

Prostitution in Israel: Myth vs reality

Jerusalem Post

December 3, 2012

By Rebecca Hughes

For too long, the conversation surrounding prostitution has been based on a myth. While the damage that stems from inaccurate depictions of prostitution in popular culture is significant, it is nothing compared to the damage created by misinformed policymakers and law enforcement officials.

There is a dangerous gap between the glamorous depiction of prostitution in pop-culture and the reality that prostituted women and minors are forced to contend with on a daily basis.

When society’s decision makers ascribe to these myths and are oblivious to the suffering of prostituted people, real women and children fall into the abyss and are all too often unable to climb back out. [Read more…]

Modern Slavery in Israel: It’s All Politics

The Algemeiner

August 19, 2012

By Rebecca Hughes

Several days ago, I awoke to the sound of my phone ringing off the hook.  A very annoyed man was on the line. “I’m calling from the Knesset,” he said. “You’ve been sending us letters.” His tone was accusatory, but I was guilty as charged.

Championing ATZUM’s “Project 119,” 127 volunteers – myself included – have been sending numerous e-mails to the Members of Knesset.  Over the last five months, we have sent 1,904 e-mails urging MKs to pass MK Orit Zuaretz’s proposed legislation to criminalize the purchase of sexual services.

Though he was clearly less than happy to be talking to me, I was pleased to be speaking with him.  Clearly, I thought, this was someone who realized that combating sex trafficking and prostitution belongs near the top of our government’s ‘To Do’ list, seeing as there are thousands of prostituted individuals in Israel, many of whom are children. Although procuring is illegal in Israel, 90% of these women and children are owned by others and experience violence at the hands of their pimps or their clients. [Read more…]

Orna Shurani to Celebrate 84th Birthday, Saved 27 Jewish Men

Arutz 7

July 22, 2012

By Chana Ya’ar

Later this month, Orna Shurani of Nahariya will celebrate her 84th birthday. For this particular woman, birthdays are a time of serious reflection as she risked her life on numerous occasions between 1944 and 1945 to save 27 Jewish men from Nazi persecution in Hungary. At several different points during that period, Orna was certain that she would not see her next birthday.

Now, so many years later, Orna is a recognized Righteous Among the Nations, a privilege that has earned her the right to live out her golden years in Israel surrounded by friends and family – a happy ending she could never have imagined. Born Erna Csizmadia in Hungary in 1928, Orna was the youngest of three sisters. The Csizmadia family was very close and Orna’s older sisters, Olga and Malvina, were very protective of her. [Read more…]

The Leo Baeck Education Center Righteous Among the Nations Project

The Jewish Press

June 11, 2012

By Yocheved Golani

Yael Rosen, Director of ATZUM‘s Righteous Among the Nations Project speaks with pride of the astonishing accomplishments made in a joint project with the Leo Baeck Education Center in Haifa.

Students there launched a research project about specific remarkable, heroic acts during World War II, focusing on the heroism of the Van Hall and Boissevain families from Amsterdam. “The beauty of fostering the inter-generational, cross-cultural relationships that resulted from this effort is indescribably valuable,” Yael says. She has much more insight to share.

“The research project began in 2009, culminating in a heartfelt, sometimes tearful opening ceremony for the exhibition held May 21 at the Leo Baeck Education Center in Haifa. ATZUM is involved with improving Israeli society in various ways. One branch of our work is an attachment to the Righteous Among the Nations, gentiles who risked their own lives by saving Jews during the Shoah. The public sometimes hears of this group of people through Yad VaShem. Several RAN members reside in Israel. We at ATZUM believe that these now elderly survivors, aged 77-95, deserve whatever financial, legal and bureaucratic help they need. Since the Leo Baeck school has impressive social action programs of its own, we joined forces.” [Read more…]

Righteous Gentiles saved an entire world

Canadian Jewish Tribune

June 5, 2012

By Atara Beck

HAIFA – At a moving ceremony honouring Righteous Gentiles, their merit was epitomized by child survivor Rivka Nordheim, who said:

“It is written in the Talmud: ‘He who saves a life, it is as if he saved an entire world.’ You could take out the words ‘as if.’ I have 14 children and 110 grandchildren, attended 19 grandchildren’s weddings and have 38 great-grandchildren. I was saved by the Baracs family at their great risk. They saved an entire world.”

The packed event took place on May 21 at Leo Baeck High School in Haifa, and it was the culmination of three years of extensive student research into the rescue activities of the Boissevain and Van Hall families, and by extension the Baracs (the families are all related), who were recognized as Righteous Among the Nations (RATN) by Yad Vashem Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority in Jerusalem.

It was the launch of an impressive 10-day exhibition, titled The Light in the Darkness, which included documents, testimonies and other discoveries at Yad Vashem and Lohamei HaGeta’ot (Fighters of the Ghettos), among other museums, as well as related art and literature. [Read more…]