[Stop-traffic] News/Israel: Arson Wave Hits Tel Aviv Brothels (washingtonpost.com)

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Subject: [Stop-traffic] News/Israel: Arson Wave Hits Tel Aviv Brothels (washingtonpost.com)
Date: Sat Sep 23 2000 - 15:52:13 EDT

Dear List,

I am horrified and disgusted by these targeted acts of violence, as
every person with morals and ethics should be. These were women
working a job and they were killed senselessly just because some
people don't like the occupation they were in. It is completely
irrelevant if they were trafficked into forced prostitution or they
migrated to work in the sex industry voluntarily. All women working
in the sex industry in Israel must be living in fear of these
on-going threats of violence. My thoughts are with them.

Some of the first women who were taken to the concentration camps
during WWII were sex workers, the following poem should include this
fact...... Thought the poem was a poignant reminder of the
importance of protecting all people.

                In Germany they first came for the Communists
                                        and I didn't speak up because
I wasn't a Communist.
                                      Then they came for the Jews,
                                        and I didn't speak up because
I wasn't a Jew.
                                      Then they came for the trade unionists
                                        and I didn't speak up because
I wasn't a trade unionist.
                                      Then they came for the Catholics
                                        and I didn't speak up because
I was a Protestant.
                                      Then they came for me
                                        and by that time no one was
left to speak up.

--The Reverend Martin Niemöller, a pastor in the German Confessing
Church who spent seven years in a concentration camp.

Melanie Orhant

Arson Wave Hits Tel Aviv Brothels

This is one of the Tel Aviv brothels that has been a victim of the
recent violence. Last week, one burned to the ground killing those
inside. (For The Washington Post)

By Lee Hockstader
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, August 25, 2000; Page A22

TEL AVIV –– From the red-curtained reception room where she greets
clients, a Russian-born prostitute wearing lingerie and a permanent
pout surveys the sounds of the street outside Dolls, a Tel Aviv
brothel. Sometimes what she hears is ugly.

"The religious men ride past in their cars shouting out the windows,"
said the prostitute, who calls herself Alina, as she glanced away
from a Russian news broadcast on television. "They yell a slogan:
'You're going to burn!' "

Lately, the brothels of Tel Aviv have been burning.

In a wave of arson that has swept the city's red light district in
the past few weeks, at least eight brothels and sex shops have been
torched. Last week, in the worst incident, four prostitutes died on a
quiet street when the brothel where they worked and lived was set
alight before dawn. Neighbors heard their shrieks for help before
they succumbed to the smoke and flames.

The rash of arson has targeted the area around Tel Aviv's central bus
station, where much of the city's sex industry is concentrated. It is
a seedy, strange subculture where the lingua franca is a blend of
Russian and Hebrew. Some of the prostitutes are bought, sold and
occasionally auctioned by sex-trade traffickers, and hard-looking men
cast a wary eye on male clients and other visitors day and night.

This underworld, which for years has functioned more or less without
interference, has been seized by fear since the fires started.

"They warned on the news that this could happen again, and that
everybody should keep an eye out," said Alina, who declined to give
her last name.

A few blocks away, at a brothel called Barbie, a man froze up when a
reporter introduced himself and began asking questions. "What do you
want, to get me killed?" he muttered. "I'm not saying anything."

No one is sure, or no one is saying, who or what is behind the
torchings, but suspicions run along two main tracks, according to
police and brothel workers.

One, expressed by Alina and others, is that the fires are the work of
a religious fanatic or fanatics, possibly ultra-Orthodox Jews, who
see the scores of brothels around Tel Aviv as an impurity to be
scoured from the city streets. Plenty of rigidly religious Jews pass
through the area near the central bus station. Prostitutes say a
fifth or more of their customers are ultra-Orthodox men, identifiable
by their skullcaps and other garb.

The theory that a religious person may be responsible has been given
added weight by an incident earlier this year and one last year in
which a newly devout Jew blew a ram's horn, a traditional instrument
used in Jewish religious rites, before setting two brothels alight
with molotov cocktails. The man, nicknamed "the messiah" by the
media, is now in prison. Police describe him as mentally disturbed.

The other main suspicion, just as widely held, is that the fires are
being set by gangsters or protection racketeers either seeking
control of a share of the market or the upper hand in a business
rivalry among themselves. Although prostitution is legal in Israel,
the sex industry is largely under the thumb of organized crime,
including traffickers whose activities have been largely ignored by
the authorities, according to the Israel Women's Network, an advocacy
group that has researched the issue extensively.

Following last week's fire that killed four women, police intensified
undercover surveillance of the brothel district, a spokeswoman said,
and companies that provide fire extinguishers in the area say they
received a surge of orders from brothels.

Perhaps 200 brothels operate in and around Tel Aviv, a burgeoning
business fueled by the breakup and economic collapse of the former
Soviet Union and the rise of traffickers specializing in young women.
Women's and human rights groups, including London-based Amnesty
International, have spotlighted the commerce in these women, who are
sometimes lured from Russia, Ukraine and other former Soviet
republics with promises of legitimate work, only to fall prey to
traffickers and pimps in a variety of countries, including Israel.

Some of the women enter into the sex trade willingly. Others are
raped and beaten by pimps who confiscate their passports, control
their movements and threaten to harm their families should they
attempt to flee. At least 1,000 women from the former Soviet
republics are believed to be working in Israel as prostitutes.

"We don't know whether these women [who died last week] were among
the trafficked ones or not," said Esther Sivan, legal adviser of the
Israel Women's Network. "The main problem is that it's either
victimization or revictimization of women."

Israeli fire officials said the blaze that killed the four
prostitutes--two of them Israelis, the other two illegal
immigrants--was set intentionally in several places throughout the
building at around 4:30 a.m. The women were unable to escape through
the windows, which were barred, or through the door, which was
apparently locked and may have been too hot to open.

"Four beautiful young women in one day, they killed them," said
Shlomo Tzadok, 73, a parking lot attendant around the corner from the
gray, two-story building that now stands gated and gutted. "It really
hurts me."

Tzadok, an observant Jew himself, said he suspects the culprit may be
a rigidly religious person deranged by faith. "I think someone saw
that brothel and said, 'That's it, we're going to purify Tel Aviv.'
These people, they say it's impure, a sacrilege. They say that in the
Torah it says you shall not under any circumstances commit adultery,
just like you shall not steal."

© 2000 The Washington Post Company

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