Published in The Jerusalem Post on January 18, 1998
Prostitution and the selling of young women into sexual bondage, says The New York Times in a front page story this week, “has become one of the fastest-growing criminal enterprises in the robust global economy”.
Out of all countries in the world, what country best serves as an example of this sickening, heart-rendering phenomenon, with pictures and all? The Holy Land of Israel, seat of G-d’s presence in the world. The Times story is date-lined: Ramle, Israel.
You see, there are now at least 250,000 foreign male workers in Israel, most of whom are single or here without their wives, and the demand for prostitutes is great. The police estimate that there are 25,000 (!) ‘buys’ – paid sexual transactions – every day in our Jewish homeland. To meet this need, thousands of innocent Slavic women are imported and forced into sexual slavery in Israel, their passports burned by Mafia pimps, and their dreams of a better life in the civilized world – dashed.
Brothels, the world learns through the paper of all newspapers, are ‘ubiquitous’ in the Land of the Bible. The bordello business in Israel is ‘booming, ‘bustling’, ‘around the clock’ — and not just with foreign workers. “Israeli soldiers, with rifles on their shoulders, frequent the places, as do business executives and tourists”. The Israeli police lackadaisically raid the fleshpots “every once in a while, usually with great fanfare and plenty of advance notice”. The jolly brothel owner gets, ouch, fined.
What was it that Chaim Nahman Bialik said about us becoming a normal nation like all other nations? When we have Jewish thieves, Jewish murderers and Jewish prostitutes, he joshed. Oh boy and oh dear, have we ever become normal!
How low can we fall? Well, the Israel Academy of Hebrew Language this week felt the need to promulgate a new Hebrew term, * zoneh *, for male prostitutes. Like flat-tire fixers, who also got a new Jewish name this week (* ‘tzemigai’ *). Apparently male prostitutes are becoming as prevalent as the prosaic *‘puncher-macher’*.
The Times might as well have quoted the prophet of doom, Jeremiah (2:20): “Upon every high hill and under every green tree thou didst sprawl, playing the harlot”, he sobbed in palpable pain. Yea, how Jeremiah would have wailed to read of the modern-day disgrace and desecration of G-d’s name! “Weep the eye that reads of Israel’s debasement, before a global audience”, he might proclaim. Indeed, the situation is enough to make you cry in despair, or vomit from shame.
Vomit is a tough, but an appropriate term, because that’s exactly what out tradition tells us the Land of Israel will do to the Jewish people who degenerate into the ‘abominable acts of Egypt and of Canaan’ (Leviticus 18:3). “Because of sexual promiscuity, exile was introduced into the world, and the Jewish people are banished from their land and others take their place”, explains the Talmud (Shabbat 33a). “As it says: ‘You shall not commit any of these (sexual) abominations…..that the land not vomit you out, when you defile it, as it has vomited out the nations that were there before you’ (Leviticus 18:25-28)”.
What differentiates Jews from other people, and what distinguishes Israel from other lands, asks Nahmanides? We are to be a holy nation, meaning sexual restraint, he explains, with a direct relationship to the L-rd; residing in a land with a very sensitive stomach. “This is a living land with a personality of its own – the inheritance of G-d reflexively will spew forth from its midst those who adulterate it with murder, lewdness and idol-worship”, warns Nahmanides (commentary on Leviticus 18:25).
G-d Himself can’t and won’t endow us with His Presence under circumstances of sexual abandon. “Three things cause the withdrawal of the Divine Spirit” teaches the Zohar (Exodus 3a). Topping the list is the carnal corruption of community life.
Sound religiously fundamentalist? Not at all. Religion isn’t the issue here. Political survival in the State of Israel is. Without Heavenly backing, we don’t stand a chance against the Arab/Moslem world.
So it is incumbent on our politicians to oust those who would prostitute our society and threaten our stake in Tel Aviv. Acting against the prostitution profiteers is even a direct Biblical commandment, incumbent on the courts and law-enforcement, according to Nahmanides. (Deuteronomy 23:18. Look it up).
Here’s a couple of policy suggestions. Get rid of all the foreign workers, to reduce demand. Enact unconditionally tough legislation against the sale of human beings and their captivity in prostitution. We have no such law at present. Arrest and jail the gangsters that control the contraband trade in women. Raze every building within a two-kilometer radius of the old bus station in Tel Aviv, present-day Sodom, in order to fulfil the requirement: “And you shall eradicate the evil from your midst”.
Having thus repented, we can then tackle adultery and the daily wife-killings that plague our not-so-holy land.