The city of Tel Aviv has launched a unique NIS 3 million program to get the city's 1,200 prostitutes off the streets and into more "normative" lifestyles, reports www.mynet.co.il. In the first-ever long-term program of its kind, the city has set up a special team of some 20 social workers, clinical criminologists and psychologists who have begun working both to reduce the harm suffered by working prostitutes and ultimately to help them get out of prostitution and into normal society. According to the report, the idea for the program came from the Prime Minister's Office, which transferred NIS 3 million to the city of Tel Aviv to administer it. The city set up a special team of professionals called Sla'it, the Hebrew acronym for "Assistance for Women in the Cycle of Prostitution" (Siyua Le'nashim Be'ma'agal Haznut), which is being headed by Na'ama Rivlin and is responsible to the mayor's adviser on women's issues, Ruth Sofer. "The program has two aims and two paths," Rivlin said. "The first path aims to minimize the damage caused to women trapped in the cycle of prostitution. In the second path we will try to reach women who want to get out of this cycle and blend into a normative life.... Our ambition is for there to be no prostitution in Tel Aviv. Prostitution is violence towards women." The report said the team had begun operating in an "organized and professional" way to make and continue contacts with the estimated 1,200 prostitutes in central and south Tel Aviv, initially providing them with emergency assistance and setting up health and social security insurance for them. Later, women wishing to get out of prostitution will be able to stay at a special hostel being set up for them in Rehov Ahad Ha'am, where they will receive medical and psychological support, as well as professional employment training and instruction in skills such as managing a budget with the aim of preparing them to join society. Rivlin said the team had already contacted about 30 prostitutes and aimed to establish contacts with 150 to 200 within a year. "This is a professional and stable program for the long term," Sofer said. "It demands attention and investment from the city for a long time. There has never been a long-term program that will enable these women to get out of the cycle of prostitution. The stability of this program is its most important factor." But University of Tel Aviv sociology and anthropology professor Giora Rahav was skeptical about the program, saying that while it might get some women out of prostitution, their places would quickly be filled by others. "This program has no chance of wiping prostitution out as a phenomenon... as soon as a demand for prostitution exists, prostitution exists," Rahav said.