On May 30th, Judge Itai Hermelin of the Tel Aviv Magistrate Court ruled that the brothel at 36 Yitzhak Sadeh Street must be closed for 90 days. At the same time, the judge stated that in the future brothels run by women – as opposed to men – should not be targeted.
The Yitzhak Sadeh brothel is a well-known and especially large operation and we welcome its closing as a part of a trend of greater law enforcement against commercial sex establishments in Tel Aviv and the rest of the country. However, we must also recognize that the ruling exposes the failure of our current laws to provide a comprehensive solution to prostitution in Israel. By concentrating only on related offenses (such as pimping and owning a brothel), our laws attempt to tackle the issue without addressing the two main players – the women trapped in the cycle of prostitution and the customers who continue to fuel the demand for the “industry.”
The ruling puts Israel on a dangerous path towards legalization by providing the conditions under which the operation of a brothel may be legal. Allowing women to operate brothels does not empower or improve the conditions of women in prostitution. It only helps further entrench in our society the acceptability of purchasing sexual services and ensures institutional support for the exploitation of women in the sex industry. Furthermore, it supplies pimps and human traffickers with the know-how to mask their operations as legitimate businesses – for example, by instructing the prostituted women to claim ownership of and support for the business when questioned by police.
We must stop this dangerous trend toward legalization of prostitution in Israel. The time has come for Israel to reform its prostitution laws and adopt the Nordic Model. We call on the Israeli Knesset members to join the Coalition Against Prostitution’s demand to criminalize the purchase of sexual services and provide aid to those trapped in prostitution.