Every night, dozens of young men in Jerusalem's Pisgat Ze'ev neighborhood take to the streets and go out searching for girls.
But theirs is not a promiscuous search. In fact, the group of some 35 volunteers is looking to prevent such interaction and to stop what neighborhood residents have overwhelmingly complained is a growing problem in Pisgat Ze'ev - Arab men going out with Jewish girls.
What was once a rare occurrence, residents say, has become the norm in this north Jerusalem suburb, which shares a side of the security barrier with the Palestinian village of Anata and the scattered dwellings on the edge of Shuafat refugee camp.
Residents now say that, due to Pisgat Ze'ev's location and increasingly mixed Arab-Jewish population, the phenomenon of mixed dating has grown, with violent outbursts breaking out frequently between Arab and Jewish youth over the matter, and with growing communal anger over what many here feel is simply unacceptable.
"A rare occurrence?" a shopkeeper in the local mall asked sardonically this week when asked about the situation. "My friend, it's not rare at all, this has become the reality. Pisgat Ze'ev has turned into one gigantic whorehouse, please excuse the expression."
"[The young Arab men] come here to the mall and we see it all the time, they take the girls to the bathroom, they laugh with each other about it. And as if that wasn't worse, one of them opened up an actual whorehouse just up the street. There are Jewish girls in there! It's nothing short of a disgrace!"
Enter Eish L'Yahadut (Fire for Judaism), a volunteer group made up of both religious and secular Pisgat Ze'ev residents, who walk the streets at night looking for local girls out with Arab men.
"We're not aggressive, and we don't use violence," said Moshe, a 31-year-old member of the group who spoke to The Jerusalem Post
"Our goal is to be in contact with these girls and try to explain to them the dangers of what they're getting themselves into. In the last 10 years, 60 girls from Pisgat Ze'ev have gone into the [West Bank Arab] villages," he said. "And most of them aren't heard from after that."
Moshe said that his group also maintains contact with the Arab men as well, in an effort to convince them that pursuing such relationships is not in their best interest. "One of the girls we're in contact with, her father is a commander with the Jerusalem Police," Moshe said. "Once the guy she was with heard about that, things changed."
While some girls are receptive to the group's efforts, others are not. "But we keep trying," Moshe said. "These are girls who usually don't know any better, who come from troubled homes, and they're swept up by the guy's charm or nice clothes. We try to show them that these aren't the most important things, and we have women who speak to them as well."
According to Moshe, the group is currently in contact with 17 girls, the majority of whom are in high school. The group has encountered physical confrontations, but, Moshe said, iits work is done within the full confines of the law, and the Arab men they approach are often receptive as well.
However, Arab residents of the neighborhood told the Post
that the group has been a problem. "They come out all the time and hassle us," said Imad, who works in the Pisgat Ze'ev mall. "I was out with this girl the other night, and they came up and started talking to us. I don't like it, you know? What do they care who I'm with?"
But for Moshe and his group, the importance of their job lies with the girls they say they are protecting. "Sometimes these guys are abusive to the girls," Moshe said. "While that usually starts after they're married, there was an incident recently where one of these guys was beating the girl up in the middle of the street. We got involved, and she left him, but it's a shame that it has to come to that."
Another major issue for the group are the brothels that have sprung up in the neighborhood. In addition to their nightly "patrols," the group stages protests outside the houses of ill repute in an effort to pressure the owners to shut them down.
"Our mission is not against Arabs," Moshe said. "But it is for the protection of Jewish women, wherever they may be. And with regards to the brothels, the police don't interfere, because they're run by crime families. But if enough residents stand up against them, I believe they will be shut down."
In that vein, Eish L'Yahadut is planning a rally next Thursday in front of the mall, to protest the brothels and what it calls "police inaction" over the matter.
"We want to get the neighborhood involved," Moshe said. "Because it's our neighborhood, and if we don't stand up for it, no one will."
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