Haifa Police were detaining a 38-year-old man from Migdal Haemek Tuesday on suspicion that he had kept a young woman prisoner for three days after she refused to work in his club as a prostitute.
According to Coastal District police spokesman Supt. Moshe Weizman, the woman was a new immigrant from eastern Europe who had been working in the club on Sderot Hahistadrut in Haifa. The owner of the club beat her and locked her up after she had told him she did not want to continue working as a sex slave.
The police rescued the woman on Monday and took her to the city's Rambam Hospital where she was subsequently released. The police had initially arrested another man for dealing drugs and it was he who led them to the club.
Weizman said that after an investigation of the premises the police were directed to a nearby apartment building where they discovered the woman.
"This is not the first time this has happened," said Weizman, citing a similar incident in Haifa only a few months ago.
Amnon Vidan, executive director of Amnesty International Israel showed little surprise at the case. One of the organization's many projects is to raise awareness of the phenomenon of women forced to work as prostitutes against their will. He estimated that there are between 1,000 and 3,000 women in this situation in Israel. Many of them are forced to work up to 18 hours a day in nearly 400 brothels throughout the country.
"We are very aware that there are many prostitutes being held against their will," Vidan told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday. "In many cases, their passports have been taken away and they cannot leave. The club owners claim that these women chose to work in the sex trade but no one chooses this kind of career."
"They [the women] are difficult to reach individually and Israel has to deal with this problem as a country," he said, suggesting that the border police must work harder to stop the trafficking of women being brought into the country via Egypt.
"One of the biggest problems is with the police who turn these victims into criminals," he said. "The immigration police arrest the women for being here illegally instead of arresting the club owners who make them work as prostitutes against their will."