13 Dec

Jessica – the Tragic Suicide in HaYarkon 98

By Rachelle Tchiprout

“She had to drink and drug herself each night to steel herself in preparation to ‘service’ 20-30 of the brothel’s johns who paid to repeatedly rape her.” – Michal Leibel

On August 13th, 2015, a 36-year old woman hung herself in the brothel where she worked and lived for many years. After 15 years of repeated abuse, she took her life as a way out of the world of prostitution.

The response to this tragedy was felt across Israel. This resulted in a Tel-Aviv protest of approximately 800 people calling for the closure of the brothel. This was the first time in Israel that such a situation was exposed to the public.

The petition asserted that the space on 98 HaYarkon Street, far from being the innocent motel its owners’ claimed it to be, served as a prison for women in prostitution forcing their subjugation under grueling psychological pressure leading to extreme measures of last resort and suicide. The fact that the brothel has operated for years in plain sight of the public and law enforcement reveals the unbearable ease with which such a place can exist and women can be abused, despite Israel law prohibiting pimping, renting, and maintaining a brothel. For more information about the petition and the protest, click here.

In an interview with ATZUM, TFHT’s parent organization, Director of the task force Michal Leibel stated that ‘given the fact that she was a prostituted woman and an addict, both carrying tremendous social stigma, it is really astonishing the Israel public has sympathized so deeply with her pain and mourned her death.’ With this sympathy and the the work of the Coalition organizations against prostitution, the brothel was closed for 90 days (the maximum amount legal in Israel) beginning at the end of October 2015.  For the full interview with  Mihal about the subject, click here.

Jessica’s (previously known as ‘G’) death was a devastating reminder of the horrors of prostitution. With her memory and the memory of others who took their lives, TFHT hopes that the outcry of the public and the temporary closure of the brothel will be a stepping stone to change that will prevent such terrible consequences for women in the future.