Lapid decries Gilboa Prison pimping affair, violence against women

Speaking at Sunday's cabinet meeting, PM Yair Lapid addressed the phenomenon of violence against women, making him the first Prime Minister to address it as a national issue.

 Prime Minister Yair Lapid leads a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem on July 31, 2022.  (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Prime Minister Yair Lapid leads a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem on July 31, 2022.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

In his first public address on the subject, Prime Minister Yair Lapid told government officials at the Sunday Cabinet meeting that the phenomenon of violence against women, from the rape of a female IDF soldier serving in Gilboa Prison to the murder of a number of women by their close family members, is a stain on Israeli society and must be stopped.

“A woman was murdered by her husband, a daughter was murdered by her father and new horrifying details emerged in the Gilboa Prison pimping affair. All this happened within the past week,” said Lapid, adding that at the request of Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli and Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman, a new committee will be formed to address these recent events.

“Lapid’s statement is historic,” Yael Sherer, the head of Israel’s lobby against sexual violence, told The Jerusalem Post, “Until today, no Israeli prime minister addressed the issue of violence against women and sexual violence as a national issue that requires a systemic overhaul. We’ve been calling for this for a long time.”

The Gilboa Prison Pimping Affair 

“It cannot be that an IDF soldier was raped during her service by a terrorist,” said Lapid, adding that he spoke last night to Israel Prison Services (IPS) head Katy Perry and Public Security Minister Omer Bar Lev.

 Katy Perry, head of the Israel Prison Service (credit: FLASH90) Katy Perry, head of the Israel Prison Service (credit: FLASH90)

According to Lapid, the two presented steps that will be taken to “make sure that this doesn’t happen again.”

Continuing, he said, “the series of incidents happened during the previous government’s term and is under a gag order, but it requires an investigation and we will do that.”

"Women and girls in this country deserve to feel safe in and out of the house."

Prime Minister Yair Lapid

Bar Lev also addressed the issue on Sunday, saying “the testimonies that are coming out are horrifying. We need to turn over every stone to make sure that there is nothing more to it.

“I promise that we will rain down hardest on those who hurt women, on anyone who will hurt them in the future and anyone who does so now,” he added, calling on women who are experiencing assault to step forward.”

Following a court decision earlier this week that allowed for the publication of a previously gag-ordered sexual assault incident inside the Israeli Prison Service (IPS), an additional former prison guard stated on Thursday that she was raped by a security prisoner at Gilboa Prison during her mandatory service.

ON THURSDAY afternoon, the former prison guard, who referred to herself by the pseudonym Hila, launched a crowdfunding campaign in order to raise funds to establish a commission of inquiry against the IPS.

Thursday’s testimony was focused on the “pimping affair” case first publicized in 2018 by Liran Levi but which was then closed in October 2019 due to “lack of evidence.”

The case dealt with testimonies of female prison guards accusing then Prison Intelligence Officer Rani Basha of allowing Fatah terrorist and high-security prisoner Muhammad Atallah to have access to female prison guards in return for providing him with intelligence information.

However, in late 2021, the affair was blown open again after Gilboa Prison Warden Freddy Ben-Shitreet referred to it during an inquiry into the escape of six Gilboa prisoners.

Maccabi Tel Aviv soccer scandal 

On Wednesday, exactly two years after the case was closed due to insufficient evidence, a Channel 13 exposé revealed conversations between Israel Police investigators and former Maccabi Tel Aviv players Dor Micah and Omer Atzili, according to Israeli media.

The two were indicted and tried for sexual assault of minors, specifically for having sex with two high school girls. Atzili and Micah both claimed, in a number of investigations by police, that they thought the girls were older than 16, that they even showed them IDs that proved it.

After the case broke, the two players were dropped from Maccabi Tel Aviv and transferred to the Cypriot First Division.

“You don’t regret it?” asked an investigator, in the conversations, revealed on Wednesday.

The girls? She ruined my life, she needs to apologize to me. She ruined my life, my career, my home. She lied to me,” Atzili responded.

“They were both under the age of 16,” the investigator continued, “older than 16, does that surprise you?”

“I thought they were lying a bit about their age, but I never believed they were younger than 16,” he responded.

According to details revealed by Channel 13’s Almog Boker, the two minors never actually presented IDs, as the two players originally claimed. In a closed WhatsApp group, Atzili asked: “Is this legal?” Another player responded: “Anything goes.”

Lod, a danger to women

Israel Police in Lod moved a woman classified as being in mortal danger to a shelter against her will, three days after Rabab Abu Siam, 33, was fatally shot in her parent's yard. Abu Siam was also classified as being in mortal danger, but no police action was taken to protect her at the time, resulting in her untimely death. 

ABU SIAM WAS a mother of three daughters and a teacher with a master’s degree.

 Police and medical personnel at the scene investigate the murder of a woman in her 30's that was shot dead, in Lod, July 26, 2022. (credit: YOSSI ALONI/FLASH90) Police and medical personnel at the scene investigate the murder of a woman in her 30's that was shot dead, in Lod, July 26, 2022. (credit: YOSSI ALONI/FLASH90)

The classification was made for the woman after a shooting incident in her family’s home and based on police intelligence indicating that she is being followed.

While simultaneously conducting an investigation into her stalkers, it was decided that she would be moved to one of the police stations for protection. “The woman’s ex is suspected of shooting at her last week and reportedly set fire to her car in the past,” added the Israel Observatory on Femicide.

“Clearly, the ex-husband of the threatened woman should be the court’s target, and the woman and her children should have been provided with adequate police protection that does not include confining her to a shelter against her will and robbing her of her freedom of movement,” said Prof. Shalva Weil, who founded the Observatory.

Abu Siam arrived at her ex’s place on Tuesday to visit her three daughters. Her father, Muhammad, told 103FM that “she knew she was in danger and that she isn’t allowed to go to Lod, but I couldn’t stop her from seeing her daughters. It is terrifying; a complete lack of security. You feel as though you aren’t safe anywhere. The man shot her in the house with her daughters present.” According to reports, one of her daughters was sitting on her lap when it happened.

Like the woman from Lod, Abu Siam was aware of the threats to her life and refused to be placed in a women’s shelter. The police couldn’t protect her in Lod.

“This is such negligence,” Muhammad continued, “what kills me is that the police knew that there was an alert out for her. If you know – do something, do your job. I don’t understand the police. I forgive my daughter, I understand what it’s like to have kids, you can’t keep parents away.”

What is the government doing to curb the spread of violence? 

“This government did more than any other government to curb the violence against women,” Lapid said on Sunday, detailing the dedication of NIS 200 million to a program to fight domestic abuse and care for survivors.

This includes an expansion of centers for victims of domestic abuse and the training of officers, prosecutors and judges to handle domestic and sexual abuse cases.

“This is obviously far from being enough. We need to do more and we will,” said Lapid. “Women and girls in this country deserve to feel safe in and out of the house.”

“The public knows that these things happen,” added Sherer. “The issue is that it takes such a long time to reach the higher-ups, the State itself and the people responsible for the entire situation. Now it’s political, not just public.”

Walla News and Shira Silkoff contributed to this report.