Israel to Fund Efforts to Fight Rising Prostitution in Hotels

Israel fears U.S. State Department may downgrade its global ranking on preventing human trafficking.

Outside the old bus station in Tel Aviv. The average age of the girls entering prostitution is 13 to 14.
Nir Kafri

The Tourism Ministry has decided to earmark funds to fight prostitution in hotels, due to the rise in the use of hotel rooms for this activity. The ministry fears that Israel may slip in the international ranking on human trafficking compiled by the U.S. State Department, Haaretz has learned.

“Israel’s status may deteriorate [in State Department reports],” ministry evaluations obtained by Haaretz say.

At a conference held jointly last week by the Tourism Ministry, the Hotel Association and the Travel Agencies Association, it was decided the ministry would allocate funds for training hotel staff to detect signs of prostitution. For example, if a hotel employee sees a woman who returns to the hotel daily, but each time to a different room, he will report it to the police.

Deputy director-general of the Hotel Association, Romi Gorodeski, confirmed that the training would be held in tourism schools. Today there is no penalty for hotels in which prostitution takes place and nobody is tasked with detecting this activity in hotels.

The State Department report of July 2001 placed Israel in the low third place on the scale of preventing human trafficking. As a result the United States cut the economic aid to Israel. As of 2011 Israel was ranked in the highest place, as a state that allocates resources and fights against human trafficking.

Tourism Ministry officials believe that pimps and criminals who employ women as prostitutes prefer them to work in hotels rather than brothels, because it’s harder to detect their activity or arrest those responsible in hotels.

Many women from states in the Former Soviet Union, who came to Israel on a tourist visa, are working as prostitutes in hotels, the ministry’s advisor for women’s affairs, attorney Sharon Meir, said.

“In the past year we’ve witnessed more and more cases of prostitution in hotels, rather than brothels,” she said. “This is a relatively new development, which we must stop as quickly as possible.”

The police are in regular contact with hotel security officers, who report any suspicion of ties between hotel employees and prostitution chains. However, hotels are not searched or examined in this context.

“To fight [hotel prostitution] effectively we need effective enforcement methods,” Tourism Minister Yariv Levin (Likud) said at the conference.

Last December Haaretz reported that the minister was advancing a plan to penalize hotels where prostitution was taking place or whose staff helped provide guests with sexual services.