Sisterhood Blog

Israel Should Grant Asylum to Sex Slaves

By Elana Sztokman

  • Print
  • Share Share

M., a 28-year old Eritrean woman who grew up in Ethiopia, decided to emigrate with her husband in May 2009 in the hopes of a better life. Trying the Sudan and then Egypt, they eventually hoped to make their way towards Israel. A group of Bedouins took their money in exchange for a promise to bring them to Israel, but instead, they allegedly abused them terribly.

“My husband was tortured by them,” M. told workers at the Hotline for Migrant Workers in Israel, where they recorded her testimony from her cell in Saharonim prison. “In front of my eyes, they slowly burnt parts of his body until he died of his wounds. His body was tossed on the road. I was raped and badly beaten by them.”

This week, the testimony of M. and nine other women currently in the Saharonim prison awaiting deportation will be heard by the Committee on the Trafficking of Women in the Knesset. The goal of the Hotline activists is to grant women status as victims of sex trafficking in order to allow Israel to provide the women with a safe haven rather than send them back to where they came from.

“The state of Israel must recognize them as victims of torture,” advocate Osnat Cohen Lifshitz of the Hotline told Yediot Aharonot.

“I can’t tell you exactly where I contracted AIDS,” testified one of the other women, T. She, like other women, believe that money that passed hands was payment for her — that is, to purchase her as a sex-slave. “On the way from the Sudan to Sinai, I was raped by a Bedouin named Salah. Around 9 p.m., he took me with a group of people to the desert, and then moved me to an isolated space, where he held me and raped me for three days straight, without any protection. I resisted, I cried, but he didn’t listen. He whipped me with a belt, tied my hands behind me, and would rape me over and over again. I couldn’t run because I was so far away from people and did not know where to run to. After the three days, he brought me back to the group. I didn’t tell anyone about the rape until after I found out that I had AIDS, and then I told the prison social worker.”

Over the past 10 years, thousands of women have been trafficked illegally into Israel through the Egyptian border. They used to be predominantly women from the Former Soviet Union, but since 2005, the numbers of FSU women who come to Israel as part of the illegal trade have gone down — thanks in large part to the dedicated work of the Knesset Subcommittee on the Trafficking of Women. Unfortunately, the numbers of African women being trafficked have been steadily rising. In addition, there has been a sharp increase in the number of Eritrean women seeking asylum in Israel.

According to a report of the Human Rights division of the American Department of State, hundreds of asylum seekers who were sent back to Eritrea have since “disappeared.” The Ministry of Justice in Israel describes Eritrea as a country in which “human rights violations and political persecution are widespread, and include the incarceration of prisoners of conscience without charge and without trial, persecution on the basis of religion, the disappearing of citizens, and more.” Sigal Rosen, the Public Action Coordinator of the Hotline, told Yediot that the women “cannot be returned to Eritrea because of real threat to their lives.”

S. says she was held for three weeks by a group of Bedouins in the Sinai desert. The leader, a man named “Doyet, along with five other Bedouins whose names I don’t know, raped me continuously.” S., along with the other women, eventually managed to free themselves, and then arrived at the Israeli border where they were summarily arrested for illegal entry. They are currently awaiting deportation, but the fear is that if they get sent back, they will be returned to a life of torture or worse.

The voices of these women, women awaiting deportation back to Eritrea who were sold as sex-slaves when they desperately tried to build a better life, are being heard in the Knesset for the first time this week.

The question standing before the Israeli government is whether to be like the rest of the world and enforce cold, heartless laws that do not recognize the particular suffering of migrant women whose bodies are stolen and sold, or whether Israel will in fact be a light unto the nations and act with heart and compassion and protect these women, the strangers among us, as the Torah implores us to do.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Human Trafficking, Sex Salves

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.