A petition calling for the government to stamp out the practice of human trafficking has been signed by more than 3,000 Jews worldwide and will be brought before Prime Minister Ehud Olmert this week to coincide with the release of the US State Department's annual Trafficking in Persons report on June 1.
In the past few years, the report has listed Israel as one of the nations that does not meet the minimum standards required to combat human trafficking. This report follows a UN report in April that named Israel as one of the main destinations for trafficking of women.
Organized by the Task Force on Human Trafficking (TFHT), a project of the non-profit organization Atzum (Justice Works), the petition outlines suggestions on how to uproot the problem of the white slave trade in Israel. In addition to the prime minister, cabinet ministers and members of Knesset will also receive a copy of the paper.
"We are encouraged by the current prime minister's active stance on this issue in creating a special committee to consider implementing the policy recommendations we submitted," said Atzum founder Rabbi Levi Lauer.
"Ours is a unique policy paper that includes operative recommendations for nearly all cabinet ministries, including innovative recommendations that would cost the country nothing and require only goodwill on the part of the government to implement," he said.
"We are severely troubled by the increasing connection between organized crime and trafficking in women," added TFHT's legal adviser, Ori Keidar.
TFHT spokeswoman Roni Aloni-Sadovnick expressed her concern about police statistics that suggest there has been a "severe drop" in the number of trafficking victims in the country.
"The police can plainly see that the brothels - previously centralized in traditional prostitution areas - have simply moved their business to private apartments scattered throughout the country," Aloni-Sadovnick said. "From this, the police deduce that there has been a drop in sex trafficking.
"Police statistics run contrary to statistics reported by the IDF. Many policemen with whom we met relate to the victims as if they are criminals," she added.
Of the 3,000 people who signed the petition, at least 400 are leading rabbis and Jewish communal leaders from throughout North America. Signatories include Rabbi Yitz Greenberg, president of the Jewish Life Network; Rabbi Dov Linzer, rosh yeshiva of Chovevei Torah in New York; Rabbi Ronaldo Matlon of the Bnai Yeshurun synagogue in New York; Rabbi Sharon Bruce, chief rabbi of the Yakar Congregation in Los Angeles; Rabbi David Wolpe, chief rabbi of the Sinai Congregation in Los Angeles; Rabbi Gordon Tucker, chairman of the board of the Masorti movement in Israel; and Rabbi David Golinkin, president of Machon Schechter in Jerusalem.