Erim Bayala Visit

By Mitchell Slepian, ELEM-Entry NY

When you think of Israel, the first thing that often comes to mind is the crisis over the disputed territories. Or perhaps, you think of pious Jews spending their time learning Torah. But how often do you think of the Holy Land’s growing problem with teen and adult age prostitution?

Probably not much.

While rarely spoken of or addressed, every year prostitution in Israel increases at staggering numbers. According to ELEM Youth in Distress in Israel, there are thousands of youth involved in prostitution.

Most of Israel’s prostitutes were sexually abused while growing up. They came to believe that rather than staying in a home where they were forced to have sex with family members, they could get earn a living by entering the field of prostitution. Their ages generally range from 12-24. In most cases they are 16-20. Many still live in the homes they were abused in.

These girls perform numerous sexual acts for their clients But in most cases they receive no or very nominal amounts of money for their service. Generally, close to 90 percent of the payment goes back to the pimps. The women work for food and drinks. In many cases, this is more than they got at home.

Just recently, I spent time in Eilat at ELEM’s Erim Bayala (Awake at Night) house, which helps build feelings of trust that the girls working the streets have never felt.

The small house, which just opened, is adjacent to a high school. Several nights a week ELEM’s volunteers gather there before they walk the streets to find women in need of their help. Currently there are about 10 volunteers at Erim Bayala and 15 working with other ELEM outreach projects in Eilat. About 1,700 people volunteer with ELEM throughout Israel.

Hila, a female volunteer in her early 20s, who is studying social work gave me a quick tour of the facility and we hopped into a taxi to go to the area where the prostitutes work. Upon exiting the cab she showed me the bars where the pimps send them to find clients. The streets were scattered with their “business cards”. These cards showed the prostitute’s photo and contact information. I saw similar on the boardwalk at Frishman Beach, Tel Aviv.

We strolled the streets and Hila told me that the working girls usually hang out in the bars. They know which guys will buy them drinks or something to eat. Once the hook up is made and the drinks and food are done they usually walk to the massage parlor or other locations

The bottom floor of the massage parlor is the Grand Central Station for Eilat’s prostitutes. It contains many doorless rooms and a shower or two. A person could walk by numerous rooms and witness sex acts being performed. The girls then will take a shower and move onto the next client.

The ELEM volunteers often wait in the bars or at the massage parlor. They see the girls exiting their shifts and approach them. ELEM has changed the paradigm of how they work with these people to change their lives.

They never chastise them for working in this profession. They become their friends. They become a person they can talk to about any topic. The girls get cell phones from ELEM staff to use to call them.

It is not uncommon for girls to meet with a volunteer once a week just to chat or have coffee. The volunteers call these girls regularly. They call just to say hello and to build trust. It takes some time for the girls to begin trusting ELEM’s volunteers. But eventually many do.

It is not unusual for the girls to see 20-30 clients over the span of 10-12 hours. So in other words they don’t rest on Shabbat. Sadly, Motzei Shabbat (conclusion of Shabbat, when the work and other restrictions are lifted), it is not uncommon for many Orthodox Jews to go visit these girls. They line up at the massage parlor or in bars. They usually travel in teams of two. One will take off his kippah and long black coat and give it to his friend to hold. He will find a girl and when he is done, the friend will find a girl. And the one who just finished seeing a prostitute will hold his religious effects.

Muslim dads will take their 13 year-old sons to a girl to ensure they lose their virginity.

While some of the girls use drugs, very few become addicts. They may smoke a little or pop a pill or two. This is done to help them escape what they are doing.

Hila and I sat in the Beatles bar sipping beer waiting to see if any prostitutes would enter. None did. But that’s because we were there too early. We left the bar. I went back to my hotel. Hila went home.

But somewhere on the streets of Eilat were young girls that needed help from ELEM’s volunteers and professional staff. Thankfully these people are out there donating their time.

 

 

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

ISRAELI SOCIAL SERVICES GROUP RELEASES ANNUAL REPORT ON YOUTH

– Thirty Percent of Teens Have Abused Designer Drugs–

– Ethiopian Immigrant Youth Face Discrimination –

Jerusalem / New York, NY, April 4, 2013 – ELEM – Youth in Distress in Israel, Israel’s leading non-profit organization dedicated to the treatment and rehabilitation of abused, neglected, and adjudicated Jewish and Arab Israeli youth, has presented its annual report to President Shimon Peres.  It contains information on the status of adolescents served by ELEM during the past year.  In 2012, the organization made contact with more than 20,000 at-risk youngsters who were affected by sexual abuse, prostitution, drug abuse, emotional abuse and discrimination.

Key findings of the report include a 10 percent increase in drug abuse among youth aged 12-18 (including hard drugs, designer drugs, and soft drugs such as marijuana and hashish) bringing the number of abusers to 30 percent of all teens. In addition, there has been an alarming 10 percent increase in the number of youth who use these drugs on a regular basis.

The report also reveals a 70 percent increase in the number of at-risk youth from Ethiopia served by ELEM in 2012.  Seventy-three percent of this group reported that they encountered racism, 33 percent claimed discrimination by school faculty, and 33 percent felt ostracized by peers from other ethnic groups.

Commenting on the report, Lenore Ruben, president of ELEM/US, said, “The report shows the effects of the severe stress that all Israeli youth face.  It also reveals a very disturbing progression regarding the situation of Ethiopian adolescents.  Our social service professionals continue to work with our Israeli counterparts to provide support in the realm of advocacy and mentorship to help reverse this trend.”  Efrat Shafrut, ELEM/Israel’s executive director, said, “The phenomenon of abusing drugs has been growing, and we are now faced with a national calamity.”

Drug Abuse Epidemic

Data collected from ELEM’s youth projects throughout the country shows that abuse of designer drugs, including a legal hallucinogen known as “Mr. Nice Guy,” has become common among teenagers from all walks of life.  This is due to the ease with which the drugs can be purchased and their relatively low price.

Although legal and perceived as “soft” drugs, these products present severe health risks.  In the past year, ELEM staff helped more than 10 individuals seek emergency medical attention following the use of these drugs. Some were in life-threatening critical condition.

Shafrut emphasized the seriousness of designer drug abuse.  “Unlike other drugs, these drugs make users more aggressive and violent, and this year we encountered cases of severe violence among youth who were under their influence.  Another problem we face is youth injecting “Hagigat,” which is a hallucinogen and a cheap substitute for hard drugs. This drug can cause severe psychiatric reactions, infections and illnesses.”

Drastic Increase in Number of Ethiopian Youth at Risk

The report shows that in 2012 there was a 70 percent increase in the number of Ethiopian youth who sought aid from ELEM. In total, 1,697 youngsters from the Ethiopian community received aid. This figure indicates the severe distress experienced by the Ethiopian youth, stemming from social and economic hardships, the inter-generational gap, the difficulty of integrating in educational settings, racism, and social exclusion by Israeli society.

Nava Barak, president of ELEM/Israel, commented, “During the past year we encountered manifestations of severe violence among Ethiopian youth, including the death of a boy a few weeks ago. Clubs and places of entertainment in big cities sometimes refuse to admit Ethiopian youth. These youngsters are frustrated and resentful and find for themselves alternative recreational places that have a high concentration of members of their community. Anger and frustration, combined with drug and alcohol abuse, create a ticking time bomb, as evidenced by mounting violence. As a social service organization, our duty is to sound an alarm against these manifestations of discrimination and racism.”

There is a close tie between ELEM and the U.S., as the organization was founded in 1982 by a group of American and Israeli social service professionals and lay volunteers to help Israel’s population of at-risk youth become productive citizens. The youth ELEM serves face tremendous hurdles, and many live below the poverty line or struggle to assimilate as new immigrants. Social service professionals from both counties will collaborate to address the issues in the 2012 report.

About ELEM

ELEM’s network of 250 professionals, almost 2,000 volunteers and 40 programs reaches tens of thousands of youth annually with innovative and comprehensive services, including therapy, mentoring, occupational and educational placement, and vocational training. ELEM also operates a wide network of counseling and support centers, as well as a fleet of outreach vans that take to the streets to reach the hidden “children of the night.”

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Contacts:

Lori Gosset

lorimichelle6837@gmail.com

(917)860.7637

Mitchell Slepian

olaf93@earthlink.net

(718)984.0817

Special performance by Super N!RO & Khaled Dajani of “One Passion – The Project“:

The dinner was held at the Hochberg  residence, Closter New Jersey. There were 11 Guest and 5 volunteers (including Stas Fridman the best piano player ever) the evening started with a reception cocktail party accompanied with Capirinha from the bar, Stuffed mushrooms and salmon Teriyaki.
To complete the ambiance – Stas  played a powerful classic symphony on an amazing mahogany piano. After half an hour of great music and atmosphere Shira of ELEM-Entry formally started the evening with a short introduction of the cause and an explanation on the upcoming evening. Following the guests moved to the dinner table , Guy Bar-On was on top of the culinary part that included branzino fillet with pickled lemon laid on wild rice and green beans accompanied with spinach salad with strawberries and avocado.
ELEM activists joined the dinner table and explained in detail about the organization and the different programs.
After the main course and before the deserts the party shifted to the living room for the ELEM Awake At Night movie followed by a discussion about the program and the uses of the evening donations.
for the evenings finale, Stas played another piano master piece, and delicious deserts including kaddaif cups filled with wild berries, homemade chocolate truffles and authentic Mahamuls were brought to the table.
In conclusion the Hochberg residence collected $2300 and experienced a great evening.

Shira & Guy Bar-On, Tamar & Elad Raz

Tenafly New Jersey is a quite little town situated to the North West of Manhattan just North of the remarkable double decked George Washington Bridge. On a snowy night in Early March 2013, 17 Israelis gathered at the beautiful home of Dorit and Daniel (Danny) Nissan. The very unique Israeli community that grew by leaps and bounds in the Tenafly area includes many Israelis in the hi-tech industry as well as medical, diamond, real estate, financial professionals and more. The Nissans were able to gather a sizeable group of young couples who came to a special evening to support ELEM-Entry New York. What made this event even more special is that a number of other homes in the NY area hosted at the exact same time similar events. The venue included a wonderful gourmet home cooked meal, a lecture and a movie about ELEM’s “Awake at Night” program to alleviate Israeli child prostitution problem.

The hosts opened their beautiful home and prepared a remarkable dinner.
Danny was attending to the grill in the back yard in the middle of an unexpected snowy night. While looking at Danny in between the large falling snow flakes, Nirel and Maoz assisted Dorit the host in preparing the condiments and appetizers and setting the screening room. At the same time Maia Karo, a beautiful and talented young singer, and Daniel Meron, a remarkable pianist, who also volunteered, were practicing the songs that they will perform for the guests later.

The guests arrived and we all sat in the living room to enjoy some of Dorits’ “Nishnushim”. We provided a short presentation about ELEM and its operations. As always with Israelis the guests wanted to know more and the intense discussion and inquisitive questions were already in full swing. The volunteers had to slow down the momentum and suggested to continue after dinner. Eating seemed to have appealed to the inquisitive crowd and we all shifted to sit down in the beautiful dining room.

Following the meal we all moved to a back room that the hosts pre-arranged. The atmosphere was very cozy as the two performers Maia and Daniel started playing and singing. We paused to allow the discussion about ELEM “Awake at Night” continue. We then watched a movie about the program and continued with some statistics that sparked more questions. The crowd was very concerned and was wondering about the successes of the program and the need to establish continued and permanent government support.

Following the discussion guests provided donations and the evening continued with more of Daniel and Maia’s song performance. Meanwhile Dorit was hard working and prepared some amazing deserts. Dorit is an interior designer and that aspect was evident not just in the home and the set up of the dinner table but also in the remarkable food that she and Danny served.

The evening was a remarkable success. The concern of the guests to the problem touched our hearts.

Thank you Dorit and Danny for opening your home to ELEM “Awake at Night”, for your hospitality for arranging such a great crowd and for your exceptional generosity. Thank you to all the guests that came and donated and interacted to make this evening a remarkable success both in terms of raising awareness and in terms of donating to this worthy cause.

Thank you Maia, Daniel, Nirel and Maoz for your time, dedication and talent.