The State Prosecutor’s Office indicted 10 people on Monday for running two brothels in Tel Aviv, including one believed to be one of the biggest in Israel.
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Heading the indictment are the two brothel managers, Noi Hadad and Sarit Yitzhak-Agranova, both about 40. They are accused of pimping, profiting from prostitution, publicizing such services, interfering with the judicial process and helping maintain a place for prostitution.
The two were arrested two weeks ago, along with a woman who worked on their behalf, Hannah Amjar; she has since been released to house arrest. Amjar was allegedly the onsite manager of the brothel on 36 Yitzhak Sadeh Street.
She was also allegedly in charge of laundry and security services, and liaising with the women working in prostitution. Amjar was also charged with pimping, maintaining a place for the purpose of prostitution and advertising prostitution services. The advertising included placing business cards on parked cars.
Eight of the people arrested are women, including four who worked as clerks at the brothels. According to the indictment, they are accused of pimping and helping to maintain a place for prostitution.
The Yitzhak Sadeh Street brothel one was one of the biggest in Israel. Between 2013 and 2016, it operated seven days a week in two daily shifts. It was situated in a basement divided into nine small rooms, a kitchenette and waiting room. Hadad owns the property, having purchased it in 2011 for 618,000 shekels ($175,000).
According to the indictment, he signed a fictitious rental agreement with a mentally challenged straw man, claiming he was renting the property in exchange for a monthly rent of 17,750 shekels. For that they paid the man 500 shekels a month, and briefed him and the women that in case of a police raid, they would say he was the owner-manager.
Anything from three to nine women worked each shift, providing sex services for anything from two to 25 customers per shift. Each woman charged 250 shekels for up to 30 minutes. Half of that money allegedly went to Hadad and Yitzhak-Agranova.
In May 2016, Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court Judge Itai Hermelin received a request from the police to issue a closure order on the premises. The police request was opposed by 155 women who engage in prostitution. They said prostitution is legal and that issuing the closure order would drive them onto the street for work.
Six women testified before the judge, most of them mothers. Some said they had been prostitutes for all or nearly all their adult life. One said she started a few years earlier, after spending years working in the school system. All the women testifying said they engaged in prostitution by choice. Most said the reason was financial.
The judge approved the closure order, which went into effect last September, but said it would undermine “the freedom of occupation of women engaged in prostitution.” The judge added the reason he was shuttering the brothel was to prevent financial exploitation.
“With all the difficulty involved, at present the law doesn’t consider prostitution itself as slavery," Hermelin said. "It recognizes a woman’s autonomy to decide to engage in prostitution and permits men to pay money for sexual relations with women whose occupation it is,” he added.
After the closure order, the prostitutes and some of the clerks moved to a second brothel, on nearby Tversky Street. This brother operated in a property purchased by David Agranova – the husband of Sarit Yitzhak-Agranova – for 800,000 shekels in 2012. It was divided into seven small rooms, a kitchenette and two waiting rooms. From 2014 until their arrest earlier this month, the Agranovas and Hadad managed the brothel. They had a similar fictitious rental arrangement with a mentally challenged man. Hadad and Agranova claimed they were renting the space for 19,500 shekels a month.
The two managers are also accused of money laundering and tax evasion for not reporting their income from the brothel on Yitzhak Sadeh Street, which is estimated at anything between 16 million and 49 million shekels. The income from the second brothel on Tversky Street is estimated at 19 million to 60 million shekels.
Hadad and the Agranovas maintained the right to remain silent during the investigation. Amjar, however, confessed to pimping and managing the place on Yitzhak Sadeh Street, and incriminated the other three.
Lawyer Israel Klein, who represents the four defendants, said in response: “In revenge for Judge Hermelin’s decision that allowed the management of places in the format decided on, the police acted only against one of dozens of places operating in Tel Aviv, in an aggressive and insulting investigation designed only to convict.”
He said that instead of fighting real crime in the street and solving dozens of unsolved cases, the police are fighting an incomprehensible battle against prostitution and women.
He added that in their war against massage parlors, the police are contributing to an increase in rapes and are sending prostitutes out to work in the street, thereby increasing crime and the harm to women. He said the investigators’ humiliating attitude toward the women merely indicated that the motives for the investigation are unrelated and that such an indictment brings no glory to the police.
The notion that closing brothels forces prostitutes into the street may have been true in the 1970s, when there were very few brothels and judges’ closure orders were respected. In 2017, however, prostitutes are not forced into the street when a brothel is closed; they simply move to a new location, as is evidenced by the movement of Hadad and Agranova’s establishment to Tversky Street. There was even a sign on the door at the Yitzhak Sadeh property directing clients to the new address. The indictment highlights the fact that Hadad operated openly and without fear.
The indictment illustrates the degree to which brothels are increasingly employing women as pimps, clerks and managers, with the prostitutes at the bottom of the ladder. But Israeli prostitution is not some kind of “women’s cooperative,” because it is based on pimping.
Moreover, prostitution in Israel is not some kind of independent business; it exists at the margins because of the danger it poses to the prostitutes and because the field is controlled by criminal elements who extract large sums of unreported, liquid capital.
The indictments make it clear that while prostitutes are at risk for drug addiction, depression, illnesses, suicide and death, the pimps are making fortunes from their bodies.