Research  

Sex Trafficking & Prostitution in Israel, 2015

 By The Freedom Foundation of Jerusalem

Introduction

The Israeli parliament holds a subcommittee on "Trafficking of Women and Prostitution" (under the

committee on the "Status of Women and Gender Equality"), pointing at two aspects of one

phenomenon. Human trafficking is a modern form of slavery, as persons are recruited and transferred

using force and deception in order to perform abusive services for revenue. The primary expression of

trafficking in Israel is prostitution, which is in and of itself an issue. Prostitution is defined as

conducting of sexual relations in a transaction for money, largely between male purchasers and

female prostitutes. Prostitution is often accompanied by conditions characteristic of slavery, such as

vulnerability, exposure to violence, confiscation of documents, threats and intimidation, manipulation

and financial exploitation.
 

This survey will address and summarize the issue of trafficking and prostitution in Israel by providing

official statistics; pointing at state policy, legislation and discourse; introducing significant NGO's

operating in this field beside government agencies; presenting insights based on interviews with

professionals; and reflecting on methods of support and advocacy.
 

1. OFFICIAL STATISTICS:

Proper information that would measure the extent of prostitution in Israel is unavailable and probably

impossible. This circumstance on the hand complicates our understanding of the issue, while on the

other hand exemplifies its nature which is dark and surrounded by criminal and otherwise shameful

behavior. Many sources and NGO's hold to their own estimates, which are neither official nor entirely

reliable, let alone agreed upon by public authorities. However, data provided by NGO's play a very

important factor in the knowledge of the phenomenon.
 

The one solid statistic is the police record of criminal files opened for "OFFENSES RELATING TO

PROSTITUTION", a category that begins only in the year 2000 and remains quite unspecific in

publicized information (Central Bureau of Statistics):
 

(Year) Number of offenses: (Year) Number of offenses:

2000 465 

2001 402 

2002 370 

2003 459 

2004 587/625* 

2005 323 

2006 281 

2007 360

2008 301

2009 385

2010 568

2011 377

2012 182**

2013 245

*According to two different reports.

**Since June 2012 a different method was applied and apparently thwarted the data here.
 

2. LEGISLATION & POLICY:

The legal standing of Israel in regards to prostitution is generally lenient towards the act itself though

not officially recognizing it as a normative profession, while criminalizing most surrounding factors. It

should be noted that this approach can be traced to the British mandate in Palestine and English law,

which on the one hand seeks to abolish regulation of organized prostitution but refrains from dealing

with the phenomenon conclusively. Thus the Penal Law (1977) has a section on "Prostitution and

Crimes of Lust" (clauses 199-214) including pimping, soliciting, public advertisement, brothels and

adolescent prostitution.
 

Since the year 2000, following reports from Amnesty International and the US State Department

showing the grave status of Israel on sex trafficking (Tier 3), broad legal action and public discourse

began to mobilize (this notion correlates with the police reports on prostitution related crimes recorded

from that year on). Several amendments were made that year to the Penal Law specifying the

aforementioned crimes relating to prostitution as well as increasing the severity of punishment for such

crimes, particularly manipulation and coercion of persons into prostitution. In 2003 a law to fight

organized crime was passed that would allow prosecution of key members of trafficking rings for up to

25 years in prison. In 2005 a law was passed allowing restriction of property for the prevention of

crime, which applies to offenses relating to prostitution. In 2006 legislation was made directly against

human trafficking, thus increasing possible punishment of pimps from 7 to 16 years if their actions are

severe. Israel is also a signatory on international conventions against trafficking and organized crime.

According to the Israeli Police the number of trafficked women has dropped from the thousands in

2000 to minimal figures by 2009, due to extensive efforts of investigation and enforcement. Israel is

today ranked on Tier 1 in the US State Department's "Trafficking in Persons" report.
 

In 2008 MK Zehava Galon proposed a bill to criminalize consumers of prostitution and refer them to

community service, as an amendment to the Penal Law (1977). In February 2012 a similar bill was

submitted by MK Orit Zuaretz, who chaired the Subcommittee on the Trafficking of Women between

2009 and 2012, which passed a first reading but stopped due to the dissolution of parliament later that

year. In 2013-2014 MK David Tsur chaired the same subcommittee renamed "Subcommittee on the

Trafficking of Women and Prostitution".
 

These new points of legislation and policy are based on recommendations made by the Parliamentary

Inquiry Committee on the Trafficking of Women that operated from 2000-2004 and later the

Subcommittee on Trafficking of Women from 2006 until this day (both were parliamentary initiative of

MK Zehava Galon). The Parliamentary Inquiry Committee produced a final report on January 1st

2005 calling for a change of consciousness towards trafficked women as victims, amendments and

heavier sentences for traffickers, special police units to treat victims sensitively, rehabilitation efforts by

the state and welfare. Subsequently the government decided in 2006 to create an inter-ministerial

committee of chief directors to coordinate between the Ministry of Justice and other government

agencies, and with non-governmental organizations. Lawyer Rachel Gershuni was then appointed as

the "National Anti-Trafficking Coordinator" under the Ministry of Justice. The committee approved a

national program to fight trafficking in 2007 which enhanced police enforcement and also ensured

assistance to victims of sex trafficking such as medical insurance, safekeeping and safe return to

country of origin, translation of documents and more.
 

Following recommendations from government commissions emphasizing social services and

treatment to women and adolescents in prostitution, the first shelter for victims of trafficking under the

Ministry of Labor and the Ministry of Welfare was established in 2004. According to the Ministry of

Welfare there are two full treatment centers operated for women involved in prostitution; "Ofek Nashi"

in the Haifa areas and "Saleet" in the Tel Aviv area. These centers offer medical and psychological

assistance, shelters, hostels and rehabilitation activities. Treatment on a daily-basis is also available in

Eilat and Beer Sheva.
 

3. NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS & GOVERNMENT AGENCIES:

This list of NGO's was selected upon reviewing available documents and observing discourse on

prostitution in Israel. In order to understand the subject of discussion one must be familiarized with

prominent agencies and dynamic players in the field. Some of the following are actually government

agencies though they function more as separate dynamic entities and not bureaucratic offices.
 

The Awareness Center:

Founded in 2002 by Leah Gruenpeter Gold, this is the only Israeli organization focused on

the abolition of prostitution. The Awareness Center has a project to assist victims of

prostitution with legal and therapeutic aid but the main functions are parliamentary advocacy

and public awareness. Representatives take part in government meetings relating to

prostitution and lobby for harsher punishment of related crimes, as well as laws to eradicate

prostitution and for more more funds to welfare and rehabilitation. The Awareness Center

publishes news articles and conducts lectures for audiences from students to police officers

on the true nature of prostitution as dangerous and abusive contrary to popular ideas. The

Awareness Center is the official Israeli representative at the International Abolitionist

Federation and in 2010 received a national award for fighting trafficking.
 

The Levinski Clinic:

Located at the central bus station in Tel Aviv since 2002, in response to rising numbers of

contagious sexual diseases, offering medical treatment and social aid to the public. The

services at the clinic are available to all free of charge and under anonymous conditions. The

availability and neutral circumstances of the clinic allow greater access to victims of

prostitution. The Levinski clinic also operates mobile units and organizes rehabilitation

activities. Yael Goor, a social worker, has lead the organization from the beginning and in 2014

she received the national award for fighting human trafficking.
 

Task Force on Human Trafficking (ATZUM):

This social justice project of "ATZUM", founded in 2002 by educator and rabbi Levi Lauer and a

cooperation with the Kabiri-Nevo-Keidar law firm since 2004, to combat human trafficking and

prostitution in Israel. The Task Force is active in lobbying and in public awareness. Their

'Women to Go' campaign, initiated in 2010 using an advertising company, displayed women

with price tags at a shopping mall in Tel Aviv and received international attention. During the

2012 motion to criminalize the purchase of sex, the Task Force launched 'Project 119'

assigning volunteers to contact Members of Knesset urging them to support the bill. The Task

Force also develops educational material and programs for schools.
 

Saleet :

A treatment center in Tel Aviv funded by the government through the municipality. Saleet works

specifically with women in prostitution and combines a variety of services under one roof to

rehabilitate the patients into a new life of stability. Saleet has a hotline, emergency shelters and

rehabilitation hostels, social workers and professional seminars.
 

Isha L'Isha:

This feminist organization established in 1983 is based in Haifa and is committed to

strengthening the status of women and protecting rights in a number of projects. Isha L'Isha

has been involved in fighting trafficking of women since 1997 and assisted 1600 women over

the years with their team of activists. A hotline and shelter (Isha L'Isha cooperates with the

municipal authorities operating the 'Ofek Nashi' shelter, which is funded by the government to

function in the Haifa and northern region parallel to Saleet in Tel Aviv). Staff members are

highly motivated, well-connected and experienced.
 

ELEM, Youth in Distress:

Founded in 1981 by a group of professionals from the United States and Israel. The acronym

"ELEM" in Hebrew stands for non-profit organization for youth in distress. It has developed

today into a nationwide organization with nearly 300 staff and 2,000 volunteers, specializing in

first-hand contact and care for youth. Elem members meet with approximately 20,000 youth

each year, dealing with family problems, social problems, identity challenges, exposure and

addiction to drugs, alcohol, violence, sexual abuse, prostitution and homelessness. Elem's

social workers reach out to the youth at school, on the internet and on the streets. Mobile units

travel to particular hotspots and stay there throughout the night with the youth. Programs range

from business initiatives to mentoring of juvenile delinquents, all geared to extract youth from

circumstances and help them find a place in society. Elem runs a project specifically for

adolescents in prostitution that treats hundreds every year, while they estimate there are

thousands of such cases. Their method is to search for them through networks and then

approach them sensitively and offer attention and assistance, then treatment and rehabilitation.
 

National Anti-Trafficking Coordinator:

Established in 2006 to assist the inter-ministerial committee under the Ministry of Justice, this

office was led by Rachel Gershuni until recently, is a dynamic player in terms of swaying of

government policy and legislation. Dr. Merav Shmueli has assumed responsibilities of research

and reporting to government, collaborating with international bodies and training professionals.

The Office does not function independently, serving as a conservative and cautious voice to

government officials, police and judicial system. The Coordinator is not committed strictly to

prostitution but trafficking, including labour exploitation and selling of organs.
 

4. INSIGHTS:

After approaching a variety of professionals in the field to discuss prospects and unofficial information,

the different ideas were processed into separate points of insight. Accordingly, these perspectives are

not attributed directly to particular interviewees. The persons contacted include representatives from

the political arena, such as MK David Tsur, representatives from governmental organizations such as

Yael Goor of the Lewisnky Clinic (Ministry of Health) and Dr. Merav Shmueli from the Office of the

National Anti-Trafficking Coordinator (Ministry of Justice), and representatives from NGO's such as Idit

Harel (The Awareness Center), and more.
 

ENFORCEMENT--

As stated above, the one concrete official statistic relevant to the field is the number of police reports

opened for crimes related to prostitution, which was 245 in 2013. I have yet to receive a response from

the police giving further details as to the particular offenses (trafficking or causing one to cross

international borders for prostitution, pimping and brothel administration, advertisement of prostitution,

etc.) and what happened with these cases. All sources were skeptic towards this statistic, assuming

these files are mostly the prostitutes themselves taken in to the station after raids on brothels, since

there is no one else to be found there. [Incidentally, a criminal file makes it even more difficult for a

woman coming out of prostitution to find a proper job.]
 

The police does not have a designated unit to fight crimes related to prostitution but nonetheless is

fairly active. However, the limiting factor is firstly the circumstances, as the criminals know how to

dodge arrests and any evidence, while the women will not testify against them because they do not

trust the police and have reason to fear the pimps and rely on them for money and more. The other

reason these files lead nowhere is lack of collaboration by judicial authorities and prosecutors, who

are not aware of the true awful nature of prostitution and it's dependence on organized crime.

Municipalities are also problematic and do not cooperate enough to fight public advertisement and

licensing to businesses and buildings that operate prostitution. Thus it is fairly well accepted that

although new legislation will contribute significantly to the fight against prostitution, there is sufficient

legislation already if only the authorities and public held enough interest to cut down the industry.
 

LEGISLATION--

The Knesset "Subcommittee on the Trafficking of Women" recently expanded to include prostitution,

which goes to show that the subject is leaning towards prostitution, which is not seen as a

subcategory of trafficking but rather trafficking as a subcategory of prostitution. It is expected by some

that the subcommittee in the future will cut out "trafficking of women" and relate directly and solely to

the phenomenon of prostitution in and of itself.
 

Lobbyists and NGO's involved in parliamentary activity are generally quite frustrated and mildly

disappointed that the Knesset dissolved because the political setup and climate was favorable, what

with MK Dr. Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid) and MK David Tsur (Ha'Tnua). Tsur in particular was a rare asset

due to his background as Tel Aviv police chief and previous involvement fighting human trafficking on

the Sinai border. Despite this apparent setback advocates continue to believe that legislation is within

reach. MK Shuli Mualem (HaBayit HaYehudi) is considered a prime political ally for the next round.

The Swedish Model of criminalizing buyers of sex and not the prostitutes is the only option that

advocates are considering. Though many politicians refrain from expressing support publicly for

criminalization of buyers, no one in government is advocating legislation. If a motion was made to

pass a law criminalizing buyers as well as the sellers it would be attacked by the NGO's and their

associates in government.
 

The reason the bill has not passed yet is due to instability of legislative sessions and to hesitancy of

the Ministry of Justice and others, in regards to the rehabilitation of the women once cut off from their

source of income by prostitution. MK David Tsur tried to combine the law to criminalize the clients on

condition of proper welfare budgeting (roughly 100 million NIS). However, MK Zehava Galon (Meretz)

again handed in her original bill to criminalize the client and later worry about sufficient welfare funds.
 

WELFARE--

All sources agree that there are insufficient resources and services to help women in and coming out

of prostitution, to reestablish themselves. A treatment center with daily care is needed in Jerusalem.

Centers in Eilat and Be'er Sheva need funds. The major treatment centers and shelters in Tel Aviv

(Saleet) and Haifa (Ofek Nashi) are also in need of more resources to expand their reach to more

women and to do so with more ability and assistance to offer.
 

The bulk of prostitution is no longer the typical trafficked women from Eastern Europe, abused,

drugged and lacking documents. Today the typical women in prostitution are Israeli citizens, many of

whom are immigrants from the former Soviet Union bloc and single mothers, or young native Israeli

women who were sexually abused and started doing sexual favors for material return as teenagers.

Welfare and social services are in the process of adapting to the changing needs of these women who

know the language and have legal status but are desperate economically and usually traumatized

from child abuse. They need comprehensive psycho-therapeutic and social-economic rehabilitation.

As for adolescents, much more attention needs to brought to educational institutions and local social

and community networks for early prevention.
 

AWARENESS & EDUCATION--

All sources agree that awareness is a constant limiting factor for progress in the struggle to diminish

prostitution. Several NGO's busy themselves with lectures for professionals, judges and prosecutors,

police officers, military staff, teachers, social workers and the general public. Initial progress was made

recently by MK David Tsur with a reluctant Ministry of Education to raise the awareness on prostitution

in school programs, while NGO's have been developing relations and material for some time already.

An important research is being conducted to document official estimates for the number of women in

different kinds of prostitution, their conditions and their needs for rehabilitation. This will contribute

significantly to awareness efforts that so far use unofficial estimates lacking credibility.
 

5. SUPPORT:

The task of discerning who and how to support social justice in this field is difficult. Naturally, there are

politicians and NGO's in place doing what they can to reduce prostitution and related problems.

Breakthrough in legislation is important, swaying of government funding and donations for the cause is

a limiting factor. With legislation, the problem may simply be timing. Besides lobbying work,

government funding and resources of shelters and health clinics are within the bureaucratic system,

while representatives of institutions are pushing for more funding as it is.
 

Impacting public awareness in schools and amongst professionals is an open-ended need. Any

contribution is worthwhile regardless of legislation and welfare. Many NGO's and professionals are

devoted to raising awareness but this project is still in demand and still not enough media is utilized.

A new trend, which seems to be productive and worthwhile, is extra activities and professional

opportunities for women coming out of prostitution. Many women prostituting themselves are

desperate for money to support a child and lack skills and opportunity to find dignified employment for

ample wages. These projects are innovative and naturally are not inherently part of welfare services

and policy. Such efforts are a welcome venture for independent advocates and NGO's in collaboration

with social workers and the government-supported welfare services.
 

In summary, public awareness is a worthwhile project, particularly through new media and school

programs, as well as creating professional opportunities in collaboration with social workers and

shelters for victims of prostitution



                 

Children and Youth At-Risk in Israel, 2015

By The Freedom Foundation of Jerusalem

Introduction

The Ministry of Welfare and Social Services has coined a category of individuals under the phrase

"Children and Youth At-Risk." These are adolescents exposed to various dangers and poverty, often

resulting in lack of adaptation to normative social frameworks and institutions. Circumstances such as

abuse, violence and neglect, obstruct their ability to enjoy basic freedoms and a dignified life. This

category includes juvenile offenders, orphans and those with behavioral disorders. Treatment to

children and youth at-risk varies according to condition, funds and available services.
 

This survey will address and summarize the issue of Children and Youth At-Risk in Israel by providing

official statistics; introducing significant NGO's operating in this field; pointing at state policy, legislation

and discourse; presenting insights based on interviews with professionals; and reflecting on methods

of support and advocacy.
 

1. STATISTICS:

The following data is information presented by Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics, Ministry of Welfare

and Social Services, the Israeli Police and the National Council for the Child.

(POPULATION) At the end of 2013 there were nearly 2.7 million adolescents (ages 0-17)

living in Israel, comprising approximately 1/3 of the total population [%70 Jewish, %26 Arab,

3% Other].

Approximately 232,000 adolescents in Israel (%9.2) live in households of unemployed

parents, while approximately 206,400 (%7.6) live in single-parent families. Between the years

2000-2013 the number of children living in single-parent homes nearly doubled to 48,909.

In 2013 there were 239,000 children of immigrants and another 63,211 immigrant children

[35% from the former Soviet Union and 20% from Ethiopia].

The number of children living in poverty in 2013 was 826,105 [only 20% Jewish].

(WELFARE) In 2013 approximately 441,000 (17%) adolescents in Israel were registered with

the Ministry of Welfare and Social Services as children and youth in need, while 360,621 of

them were considered exposed to risk.

Among the categories of children in need are: "Dysfunctional parents or children/youth"

(%60), including behavior and educational problems, dysfunctional mother/father, relational

problems between parents and children, personal problems, orphanhood and bereavement;

"Medical reasons and disability" (%18); "Poverty, income and employment difficulties" (%15).

In 2013 a record 49,744 children reported to have been abused; 31% physically, 11.9%

sexually and 24.1% by neglect. Physically abused children in 75.8% of the cases were

abused by a family guardian. Sexually abused children in 46.9% of the cases were abused

adolescents outside their own family circle.

(CRIMINAL) In 2013 the number of police files opened for adolescents was 26,460, while

18,517 resulted in criminal charges (32% public disorder, 21.3% against property and 14.5%

bodily harm).

(EDUCATION) In the 2011-2012 school year, 6,527 children at-risk (ages 0-11) took part in a

variety of out-of-home settings supervised by the Ministry of Education and Ministry of

Welfare and Social Services. These include boarding schools (2,565 children) and foster

families (1,506 children). During the same year 50,064 youth at-risk (ages 12-18) took part in

such programs, including boarding schools (6,353), foster families (1,107) and youth

protection services (1,249).
 

2. LEGISLATION & POLICY:

Israel is a signatory to international conventions on the protection of children, namely the UN

Convention on the Rights of the Child as of 1991, while Israeli laws regarding children are generally in

agreement.

Israel's primary law regarding adolescents and those at risk is "The Youth Law (Care and

Supervision)" originally passed in 1960 and amended numerous times. This law, signed by PM David

Ben-Gurion, assumes that the rights of adolescents are to be actively protected, including intervention

of authorities. An adolescent "in need" is addressed at the beginning of the law to be one who is

without able guardian or guardian at all, juvenile offenders, underaged laborers, children under

dangerous circumstances, children with disabilities and more. The Youth Law (Care and Supervision)

determines the involvement of welfare services, police inspectors and professional psychologists who

are accountable to and collaborate with the judiciary system for the sake of the children's well-being.

It should be noted that Israeli law requires at least ten years of education, except in special cases,

according to the "Compulsory Education Law" (1949). Israel's "Youth Labour Law" (1953) protects

adolescents in employment exploitation and the "Laws of Evidence - Protection of Children" (1955)

specifies police investigation of children by special investigators, though children under the age of

twelve are not criminally liable.
 

A pivotal legal change came about with an amendment to the Penal Law in 1989, adding a clause to

prosecute those who fail to report incidents of child abuse, whether neglect, violence or sexual abuse.

This law applies not only to uninvolved parties but also to professionals surrounding the child, for

example teachers, doctors and psychologists. Such a report to the police or social worker does not

have to include definitive evidence, while offenders are liable to 3 months of imprisonment.

Another law worth noting is the Law of Adoption (1981) clarifying the circumstances and legal

procedure of the process in Israel. Clause 5 states that an adopted child will be entrusted to parents of

the same religion. In February 2014 an amendment was passed enabling the courts authority to

diverge from this clause in special circumstances, in a similar fashion to other clauses and restrictions,

such as an 18-year age difference between adopting parents and adopted child. The grounds for this

amendment were that religious authorities overseeing the process did so in a strict and exclusively

orthodox manner.
 

The treatment of children and youth at-risk is a task of the Ministry of Welfare and Social Services.

Those who are registered by government social workers are then liable to various forms of treatment

according to their needs and the severity of their condition. The Ministry divides the variety of

responsive care into two categories: "communal" and "out-of-home" treatment and institutions.

Communal social services are essentially local treatment through local institutions, supervised by

municipal authorities.
 

For children under the age of 12, services include day-care centers and nurseries, family centers with

social workers, after school activities and such. The different centers are oriented for different ages

and different problems. Social workers focus on helping the children through a warm and caring

atmosphere. There are also special programs where social workers are sent to a child for tutoring and

treatment, or to the home of a family. There are also programs specifically for children exposed to

violence and alcoholic parents.
 

For youth at-risk above age 12, services include after-school activities until the evening with a meal,

centers with group activities and therapy, emergency centers open during the day, warm houses with

more informal treatment and education, personal therapy centers, coffee house centers with social

workers, outreach mobile units (in conjunction with Elem), skill evaluation tests and more.
 

Besides normative local services, in emergency cases the authorities must intervene immediately, as

ordered by the law. Hotlines and protection centers with multi-disciplinary professional teams are

available to treat children who have been attacked physically, sexually or emotionally. In the safety of

these centers the children go through a preliminary inquiry (by designated child investigators) without

being exposed to an intense investigative process in different places. There are only two such centers

in Israel, one in Jerusalem and one in Ramat Gan near Tel Aviv. Children may then be transferred to

shelters or emergency foster families until the authorities decide to send them home or elsewhere,

based temporarily on the discretion of an assigned social worker. Temporary structures for homeless

youth and shelters for girls in danger are also made available for those in need.
 

The placement of children and youth at-risk in out-of-home institutions follows a complex process to

decide which framework is most suitable to the particular needs of the child. A variety of boarding

schools, each with a team of professionals at hand, hold between 15-300 students of all ages and are

designated for either pupils with educational and behavioral problems, former psychiatric hospitalized

children and juvenile delinquents. Some of these institutions are locked-down due to the intensive

level of treatment and control necessary. Alternatively, youth at-risk may reside in hostels or communal

dorms and apartments. These are normally short term living situations as they go about their regular

lives and schooling, but under the supervision of social workers.
 

In certain circumstances the social workers and authorities will agree to place relatively extreme cases

of children or youth at-risk with a foster family. This is considered a temporary status for the children to

rehabilitate emotionally before returning to their original households, while social workers work with

the biological parents improving their abilities.
 

Adoption in Israel is quite scarce. The Ministry of Welfare and Social Services addresses adoption as

a solution for pregnant girls and women out of wedlock and without provision, offering treatment and

support while preparing new adopting parents.
 

*National Program for Children and Youth at Risk 360°: Welfare policy in recent years follows the

"The Schmid Commission" (led by Professor Hillel Schmid and several dozen colleagues), as ordered

by the Prime Minister's office in 2003 (Decision 1007) and approved in 2006 (Decision 477). This

official inquiry recommended a broad plan to refine the welfare system by proper coordination and

administration from above, as the commission discovered a general lack in common principals and

work methods across the country. They also found that a disproportionately small amount of the

budget was used towards preventive efforts, younger children and communal services (out-of-home

institutions for teenagers comparatively cost triple the amount per individual). Based on such findings,

the "National Program for Children and Youth at Risk 360°" was launched in 2008 with the purpose of

reducing the number of children and youth at risk in Israel. Noticeable developments in

implementation of this policy plan are the inter-ministerial board (Welfare, Education, Aliyah and

Immigration Absorption, Health and Public Security); special attention to geographic concentrations

and particular people communities (Ultra-Orthodox, immigrants, Arabs and Bedouins); up-to-date

training and principle methods for social workers; treatment for the parents in family setting; and the

"New Beginnings" project for young children.
 

*Silman Report: In 2014 Minister of Welfare Meir Cohen ordered a committee report by Ministry of

Welfare Executive Director Yossi Silman to inquire about a matter raised by parents complaining that

social workers and child protection officers possess too much power and are quick to remove children

from their home. The report calls for a clear separation of official professional committees discussing a

particular child, one to recommend treatment methods and another to consider replacement or not.

The report also encourages foster care through legislation, enhanced budget and recruitment to gain

equal standing as other alternatives of out-of-home placement. Reaffirming the position of the Schmid

Commission to invest in communal treatment, the report recommends more resources and social

workers as the situation is still insufficient.
 

3. NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS:

This list of NGO's was chosen selectively upon reviewing available documents and observing

discourse on Children and Youth At-Risk in Israel. In order to understand the subject of discussion one

must be familiarized with prominent agencies and dynamic players in the field.

National Council for the Child (NCC):

Established in 1980 by Dr. Yitzhak Kadman, an expert on children's rights and the serving

Executive Director, to advocate the well-being of children in Israel. The NCC emphasizes

their comprehensive approach and pluralistic orientation, based primarily on professional

researchers and legal advisers. The NCC has a research center, training programs, a legal

team and more, and has received numerous prestigious awards. In accordance with the UN

Human Rights Convention on the Rights of the Child, the NCC has succeeded in lobbying

several amendments on laws to protect children's rights. Despite having a multi-disciplinary

board of directors, 16 staff members and dozens of volunteers, the organization does not

accept government funding in order to maintain independence. Their office is located in

Jerusalem.

ELEM, Youth in Distress:

Founded in 1981 by a group of professionals from the United States and Israel. The acronym

"ELEM" in Hebrew stands for non-profit organization for youth in distress. It has developed

today into a nationwide organization with nearly 300 staff and 2,000 volunteers, specializing in

first-hand contact and care for youth. Elem members meet with approximately 20,000 youth

each year, dealing with family problems, social problems, identity challenges, exposure and

addiction to drugs, alcohol, violence, sexual abuse, prostitution and homelessness. Elem's

social workers reach out to the youth at school, on the internet and on the streets. Mobile units

travel to particular hotspots and stay there throughout the night with the youth. Programs range

from business initiatives to mentoring of juvenile delinquents, all geared to extract youth from

circumstances and help them find a place in society. Elem runs a project specifically for

adolescents in prostitution that treats hundreds every year, while they estimate there are

thousands of such cases. Their method is to search for them through networks and then

approach them sensitively and offer attention and assistance, then treatment and rehabilitation.

The HARUV Institute:

Established in 2007 by funding from the Schusterman Foundation, the Haruv Institute focuses

on professional knowledge and research. Scholars and doctors leading the organization have

made it an authority on treatment for child abuse. Based at the School of Social Work in the

Hebrew University, the Haruv Institute conducts its own research as well as supporting other

scholars in the field, coordinating international conferences and developing educational

seminars. Through insights from research and professional training they believe they

contribute to reducing child maltreatment and improving the quality of treatment. Unlike the

comprehensive approach of the NCC, the Haruv Institute focuses on research of treatment for

child abuse and neglect.

The Association for the Protection of Children (ELI):

Founded in 1979 to deal with child abuse. ELI claims to have first brought the subject of child

abuse to the public sector. They believe in therapeutic treatment as the only way to break the

cycle of abuse. Their team of psycho-therapists treat victims of abuse including abusers who

are often themselves former victims of abuse. Treatment is offered ELI's staff functions in

Hebrew and in English, providing a hotline for child abuse, treatment clinics and shelters

across the country. ELI's main office is in Tel-Aviv.

Orr Shalom - For Children and Youth at Risk:

Founded in 1980 by philanthropist Gottfried Muller with American-Israeli couple Hal and Shelly

Cohen to pioneer foster care in Israel. Orr Shalom emphasizes the family home instead of

institutional frameworks for out-of-home care to children at risk. Besides mitigating between

foster parents and the Ministry of Welfare for the central region of Israel, Orr Shalom has

developed several innovative programs including their "group home" model of foster care. Orr

Shalom also operates a fund for graduates in the IDF and a second-hand store "Hazula" that

employs teens from the programs. Today Orr Shalom provides care for 1,300 children and has

been awarded for its work.

Ashalim (JDC-Israel):

A prestigious social R&D incubator established in 1998 based on a strategic partnership

between JDC-Israel, the Israeli government and the UJA - Federation of New York. Ashalim is

concerned with at risk individuals from birth through the age of 25 (upon completion of military

service). When an initiative is taken to address a particular need in the field Ashalim's

professionals design pilot programs, which are tested and if successful an effort is made to

institutionalize the new model. Ashalim has assisted 300 cooperative projects that help

thousands every year and currently plays a leading role in the "New Beginnings" project under

the National Program for Children and Youth at Risk.
 

4. INSIGHTS:

After approaching a variety of professionals in the field to discuss prospects and unofficial information,

the different ideas were processed into separate points of insight. Accordingly, these perspectives are

not attributed directly to particular interviewees. Some contacts simply referred to documents leading

to a review of the information above. The organizations approached include the NCC, Haruv Institute,

Orr Shalom, Elem and ELI, as well as several independent contacts.
 

BUDGETING--

All sources agree that there is a general lack of funding in the field. The welfare system is not a failed

system but major funds approved by government policy have not been fully granted. The growing

numbers of at-risk children and youth is in part due to the overall growth of the population. As the

population grows so the welfare budget grows but not enough to match the new proportions. Social

workers are dissatisfied with low wages. On top of that, due to lack of manpower each social worker is

assigned to more cases than they can handle so in practice only the more severe cases are dealt with

while others are left untouched.
 

FOSTER CARE--

The discourse in Israel on children and youth at-risk has not given fair emphasis on fostering, which is

therefore undeveloped. There is not enough understanding of fostering, nor budgeting, volunteers and

legislation. Welfare policy focuses on communal treatment and in some cases children are removed

from the home and sent to boarding schools and youth villages. In other words, foster care has not

really fit conceptually in the framework of either of these aspects. Jewish society, as well as Arab

society and other minorities in the country, do not traditionally consider fostering but are supposed to

deal with the poor, orphans and those in need within the community, each in their own tribe. Foster

parents are few, ill-funded and struggle with the most basic routine of treating children, such as getting

medicine, registering for school and extracurricular programs.
 

A bill proposed by a number of Knesset members called the "Foster Law" passed first reading in

December 2014, right before the parliament dissolved. This is a significant law that NGO's and

advocates of foster care are very excited about. This would regulate fostering by law, to grant clear

basic guardian rights to foster parents and thus clarifying the position of the child, foster parents,

biological parents and government representatives (in these case, child protection officer and social

workers). Besides promoting and regulating foster care, the bill has a clause that may prove to be

pivotal, to recognize relatives as foster parents, giving them protective rights and welfare to take care

of the children. This solution fits fostering into the communal aspect of treatment, while keeping the

children close to family and community, as well as reducing overall costs. The Ministry of Welfare is

also considering to extend the age group of children for foster care currently only up to six years old.
 

PREVENTION and FOLLOW-UP--

Treatment of children and youth is complicated as each child is different and responds differently, so

the system must be flexible and offer alternatives. However, welfare policy in general is responsive to

damage already done instead of instigating changes and preventing harm. Most contacts note that

strategic prevention efforts must be applied. There are methods and models used in other countries

for this approach. For example, social workers visit homes of potentially at-risk children (such homes

are "detected" by cross-referencing poverty, parents with criminal record, single-parents, disabilities

and more) and provide simple therapy to prevent the problems. Prevention and early-treatment are

critical as abused children often become abusive parents; it is a cycle that must be broken.

Many organizations are realizing the need to follow-up on at-risk youth when they reach early

adulthood. The system should not abandon these individuals once they turn 18. It is easy for

graduates of foster care, social services and boarding schools to fall back into old habits, especially

after losing the support to which they have grown accustomed. Various innovated projects set out to

assist these young adults as they endure military service, vocational studies and professional training.

The IDF and Ministry of Welfare are expanding efforts to adapt to graduates, many of whom are now

granted "lone soldier" status (soldiers without a local family receive benefits and attention). Some

welfare systems around the world are already conceptualizing this 18-25 years category.
 

ESTIMATES--

The dramatic figures provided by the Ministry of Welfare may be difficult to comprehend and perhaps

misleading to an observer. Organizations often use simplified rough estimates and categorizing when

presenting numbers of children and youth at-risk: 8 thousand are in acute risk (homelessness, criminal

activity, prostitution, drug addiction, exclusion and more); 30 thousand on the verge of acute risk (high

school drop outs, loitering, use of drugs and alcohol, minor criminal activity); 80 thousand in potential

risk (dysfunctional students, mild drugs and alcohol use, emotional problems and instability in family

and community); 120 thousand exposed to initial risk (social problems, depression, family tension,

unstable surroundings, exposure to drugs and alcohol); 570 thousand normative youths (normal

teenage difficulties and pressures).
 

5. SUPPORT:

The task of discerning how to support and make a difference in this field to protect the natural rights of

children and youth in Israel is not simple. The NCC is the leading advocate in the field (legislation,

statistics and more) along with other important organizations like Elem (outreach to teenagers), the

Haruv Institute (research) and Orr Shalom (foster care). Legislation is already in process and pressure

is being put on the government to invest more in welfare, though this depends on higher politics.

It is a worthy contribution to invest in organizations like Elem, Orr Shalom and ELI for example.

Besides these notables, umpteen small creative projects can be found deep in the field working with

children and youth at-risk, often without a significant network of support. Any organization or initiative

to work with children and youth, or with young adults and graduates of foster care and welfare

institutions would be original and genuinely helpful in this field.
 

Social awareness is not necessarily a critical issue. Promotion of treatment and family counseling to

parents and children would be of value but this should be done through schools and local agencies.

However, the public should be more aware of the trauma and brain damage caused by abuse and

neglect, and how it effects behavior even in adulthood, creating a dangerous cycle that should be

recognized and treated sensitively. Also, marketing of foster care would be a real assistance to foster

agencies and welfare services.