Sex Slavery Thriving in Holy Land
- News for Anarchists & Activists:
Middle East Times
Sex slavery thriving in Holy Land
By Megan Goldin NEVE TIRZA PRISON, ISRAEL
Christina, an 18-year-old university student from Moldova,
has been bought and sold so many times she has lost count.
Christina, who declined to give her real name, studied
classics and anthropology and played basketball as a hobby
before she was lured from a rural town in one of Europe's
poorest countries to sex slavery in Israel.
She is not alone.
Hundreds of thousands of 'Christinas' have been bought like
merchandise, beaten, raped and chained in Western brothels
in a 21st century form of slavery.
Christina received top marks in her anthropology studies but
couldn't scrape together enough money to pay for
photocopies, let alone buy textbooks.
Her dire economic situation made her fair game for women
hired by criminal gangs to lure young, naive girls from
Moldova and other financially-strapped Eastern European
countries into prostitution with promises of large sums of
"I never thought I would actually have to do it," Christina
said in bewilderment. "I thought once I arrived I would find
a way to escape and find other work, as a waitress or
Christina was flown to Egypt where along with 20 other
Moldovan and Russian women aged between about 18 and 24, she
was escorted across the Sinai desert into southern Israel by
a Bedouin smuggler.
They walked over dunes, eventually crawling under a
barbed-wire border fence in the middle of the night.
Rolls of money changed hands between the Bedouin and the
Russian-speaking men who bought the women. Christina doesn't
know how much they paid, but the market price for a woman
like her in Israel is around $8,000.
Frightened, an illegal alien, unfamiliar with Hebrew or
Israeli geography, Christina had no real hope of escaping.
Instead she was taken to a brothel in northern Israel where
she was forced to have sex with around 15 men every day,
raped, beaten and threatened with death if she ran away.
Eventually she did and is now a witness in a court case
against the pimp who bought and mistreated her under a new
Israeli law that makes human trafficking punishable by up to
16 years in prison.
"It's very easy. You just put them on a plane, walk them
through the desert and you have slaves," said lawyer Nomi
Levenkron, who represents women like Christina who are
locked in a special wing of the Neve Tirza prison near Tel
Aviv while they wait to testify or to be deported for
entering Israel illegally.
Sex slavery, or white slavery as it was called in the 19th
century, is almost as old as prostitution itself. But it has
had a sudden resurgence since the collapse of the Soviet
Union in 1991 devastated many eastern European economies.
Women who earn around $20 a month in Moldova are promised
$1,000 a month abroad to work as prostitutes. It is a
tempting offer for young women with bleak futures in their
home countries or burdened with supporting a large family.
Sometimes the women don't know they are being sent to work
as prostitutes and are told they will be waitresses or
secretaries. Others are simply kidnapped.
Almost always they are trafficked by the local Mafia,
frequently on a forged passport and threatened that if they
don't behave, their family back home will suffer the
"They come from a place with no money, a very poor family in
a poor village, looking for a better future," said
Levenkron, a legal adviser to the Hotline for Migrant
Workers, the only organization in Israel that helps former
"These women are so naïve, they don't realize people are
lying to them," she said.
Israel is a popular destination for the human trade. It is
not difficult to smuggle and hide Russian-speaking women in
a country where almost a million people originate from the
former Soviet Union.
"It's very easy for them to disappear between all the
Russian-speaking women in Israel," Levenkron said. "It's
very easy for traffickers to bring women here and when you
have the supply, you have the demand."
A recent U.S. State Department report on human trafficking
put Israel on a list of countries where the phenomenon is
rampant. It has until 2003 to implement "minimum standards
for the elimination of trafficking" or face stiff economic
According to Zahava Gal-On, who heads an Israeli
parliamentary committee on trafficking, that means deterring
traffickers with hefty prison sentences instead of a few
months in jail, the usual punishment handed down by Israeli
It also means putting women like Christina in safe houses
instead of jail, thereby encouraging them to stay and testify.
In the past the victim has been locked up, sometimes for as
long as six months, while the pimp is let off with a small
fine or a brief stay in jail although under the law, it is
the brothel owner, not the woman, who has committed a crime.
Like most former sex-slaves, Christina is penniless. Those
lucky enough to be paid a paltry sum, usually a few dollars,
by their pimps save the money to buy themselves freedom from
their brothel-prisons. Often they are sold before they can
"They are slaves and slaves of the worst kind," Levenkron
said. "They are disposable people because it's so easy to
buy a person."
Human trafficking is becoming a modern day scourge, said Tal
Raviv, an advocate for the International Organization for
Migration who works in Kosovo where trafficking is widespread.
"This has become a huge phenomena in the last decade," said
Raviv during a visit to Israel. "The estimates are between
half a million to 700,000 women trafficked every year just
to the West, but the global figures are for millions."
Law enforcement officials say human trafficking is almost as
rampant as drug and weapons smuggling. Many of the women
being trafficked are forced to work in brothels.
In Africa and Asia, men are often sent to sweatshops and
children forced to work in cocoa plantations in West Africa.
Some of those trafficked are slated to be unwilling donors
for black market organ transplants, Raviv said.
"Trafficking people is much easier than trafficking drugs
and weapons," she said.
"It's easier because if you find drugs or the arms, there is
no question something illegal has happened. But if you find
a person with a passport, how do you know this person is not
traveling out of their own free will?"
Raviv says the only difference between the 21st century
version of slavery and that of the plantations in the
Americas some 200 years ago is that today slavery is illegal.
"When you buy and sell a person, then it means a person is
merchandise and that is slavery," Raviv said. "The person
has no freedom, no control over his or her fate."
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