A police closure order has been stuck to the external door of a large Tel Aviv brothel for more than a month, listing for all to see the full names and identity card numbers of five women who worked there as prostitutes.
The brothel, in a basement on Wolfson Street in South Tel Aviv, was shut down August 25. Out front are a few small businesses and workshops; inside are apartments.
For a long time an apartment on the bottom floor served as a discrete brothel, tucked away inside the building. It provided fancier, more stylish rooms - and charged higher prices - than the escort service at the front of the building, which advertised itself with a sign.
Workers from the Health Ministry's Levinsky Street clinic regularly visited the women, who numbered about 20, with four to six women working per shift.
Members of the clinic's mobile night service for sex workers were shocked when they saw the "Order to restrict use of the location," which the police had marked as confidential, on an external door, fully visible from the street.
The order closing the brothel was directed at five of the women who had worked there as prostitutes.
The order states the apartment was closed to prevent the criminal acts that were being carried out there, specifically prostitution and pimping, was is valid for 30 days. It was signed by Tel Aviv District commander Ilan Franco.
"The police often close brothels, but this is the first time we have seen the police openly publicize the names of women working as prostitutes," said Sara Boano de Mesquita, a social worker and one of the heads of the Levinsky mobile clinic. She said the team was shocked to see such private information posted in clear sight.
As far as the clinic workers know, the women listed in the order worked there as prostitutes but did not own the brothel - they were the victims, and were in distress, and were not the operators, who made the profits and remain immune, said Boano de Mesquita.
She said that revealing the women's names endangered them, as now customers - or others - could pursue them, possibly to extort them.
"In addition to blatantly violating their privacy, it endangers the women," said Boano de Mesquita.
Many prostitutes hide their profession and live double lives. "They live fearing their friends and families will discover what they do," she said. Often, no one close to them knows they are prostitutes.
Now, anyone who comes to the building can find out the women's details and identify them.
Attorney Oded Peled of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel said despite the police operations to close brothels, it is doubtful whether this unnecessary violation of the women's privacy - and the potential threat to their safety - is justifiable.
Such a move presents the women as criminals, and ignores the complex social situation that prevails in such cases, he said.
The Tel Aviv police responded: "The police acted in keeping with the law ... and when the owners could not be found to be presented with the order, it was posted on the door, in keeping with the law. The women were arrested as employees of the brothel, and therefore the order was directed against them. They need to know their place of work is closed."
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