Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Prostitution In Israel

Illegal prostitution has become a huge problem in Israel in recent years, beginning in the late 90's and carrying on until today. Until the mid 2000s over 3,000 women were being brought into the country for sex trafficking every year, a staggering number considering the fact that many are lured in by gangs on the promise of work, smuggled over the border or simply abducted. Many came from Russian territories. 2007 even saw the country listed as one of the top trafficking destinations in the world, according to the BBC. The story, which was featured in November 2007, notes that Israeli officials were eventually forced into action after repeated pressure from the United States, which only happened after a grueling ten years of doing little to nothing in terms of law enforcement. Prostitution itself is legal, but pimping and brothels are not.
Prostitute Slaves
The numbers have gone down since then, at least in terms of foreign women being used as prostitutes. In response to a multinational lockdown on smuggling foreign women into the country, local brothel owners and pimps have begun to target Israeli girls instead. While the numbers are significantly lower, the internet arm of Israel's Haaretz newspaper notes that it is still considered a big problem. The article notes that while the number of illegal sex workers has gone down, the demand has not. Haaretz, the country's oldest newspaper, has little reason to skew the facts. Though the circulation is low, they are widely respected as one of the better Israeli news sources. For its part, Israel denies the issue of sex trafficking, with the police giving a prefabricated response of nonexistence to any inquiries into the subject. That said, they are cracking down much harder domestically than before. As previously stated, the number of foreign workers is down tremendously from only a few years prior.
Information poster on Ukranian Prostitutes in Israel
Legal prostitution, by contrast, has remained largely the same. While some independent sex workers are drafted by brothels or pimps, many remain in the same position they did before. This is despite a largely abolitionist legal approach to prostitution in general, as there are major loopholes in enforcement that allow both the legal and illegal sides of the industry to continue functioning. Technically legal regardless, the only hard laws against sex workers come in the form of anti-child pornography and advertising. Women are therefore arrested on technicalities, such as enticement and public exposure, at least according to a University of Rhode Island facts page that heavily borrows content from a 1997 CEDAW report. For instance, prostitution is legal, but being the client of a prostitute is not.
Israel Prostitute with "John"
Prostitution within the country is also heavily linked to drug abuse and alcoholism, with Women's News Net reporting that a statistically large number of both foreign and domestic workers are attracted to the business because of previous abuse or psychological issues. Most are women, but this number also includes transsexuals. A multitude of rehabilitation programs exist for former sex workers, but the problem is that young people continue to get sucked into the business out of desperation or because they are forced. Prostitution can even begin as young as 11 or 12 years old. Combating the myriad issues behind the problem itself, most officials agree, is the key to solving the problem. It just isn't clear how to put together such a concentrated effort. So, for now, individual organs exist to help. Some appear to be working, but the overall problem continues to fester.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Druze

The Druze are a genetically distinct community in Israel, notable for their high level of distinction among local minority groups and secretive religion. Many aspects of the Druze are fascinating, from their blend of traditional monotheistic traditions (Druze religion is a combination of Judaism, Christianity and Islam) to their close-knit social policies. Druze women very rarely marry outside of the Druze population, normally wedding to cousins from different continents. The population is global, and while the most prominent areas are in and around Israel, Lebanon and Syria, there are smaller groups located all over the world. This high level of genetic diversity coupled with rare marriage to non-Druze would normally spell doom for the gene pool, but in this case it has actually served  to preserve ancient gene codes as well as create radically diverse DNA chains.

Druze Religious Leaders
Druze religious leaders
 The original Druze populations descended either from ancient Jewish tribes or local populations of native middle easterners who converted, as well as other groups that were integrated later as the populations split apart and migrated. However, the intermarriage policies of the Druze have led the mitochondrial DNA to be preserved within a single, closed gene pool. Women who intermarry with non-Druze can be exiled from Druze lands, never to return, effectively removing them from diluting the chains with outside genetic influences. Of course, modern day members often disregard this aspect of the religion, but thanks to long-held traditions it will still be generations before any significant reduction in diversity begins to show.

Family groups 2 and 3 are Arab, while 1 is Druze. Note the number of unique sequences.

In fact, the long-guarded genetics of the Druze may be working to their advantage. Relatively recent scientific discoveries have charted evolutionary forward-thinking changes in brain size in Druze that match historical patterns, but occurring at a much faster rate and with a much higher degree of appearance. For science it means that humanity as a whole is looking at continued development of the brain, but for the Druze it means that through their social hierarchies and religious misgivings (the intermarriage laws arose due to persecution by Christians and Muslims) they may have stumbled upon a key to more rapid steps in the evolutionary chain. An incredible discovery, to be sure.

Wedding Day
Druze woman on her wedding day. This wedding was unique in that it was televised and to a non-Druze man.

One of the reasons that the Druze were (and largely still are) able to maintain these policies is that they have been recognized as a separate religious entity, complete with their own courts, jurisdiction and spiritual leadership that is wildly distinct from other Israelis. Despite being under two million strong worldwide, the Druze are held in incredibly high regard, often attaining leadership positions and high ranking government and religious jobs. Their numbers increase very slowly because they do not accept converts and the aforementioned policy on outside marriage, which contributes to their centralized power base. Additionally, women have attained a high degree of respect in Druze society. They are often regarded much more highly then men, noted for their greater degree of spiritual preparation and even handed decision making.

The sources noted above are, for the most part, trustworthy. The article on Druze genes and ancient migration patterns comes from the Jewish Daily Forward, a global e-publication that covers Jewish community issues and the like. It's a trustworthy source and, considering the subject matter, has no reason to exaggerate any claims about the particular focus of the article. The gene pool article is from a noted research publication called Science daily, which has its integrity as a research paper on the line in the case that anything proved less than factual. The article entitled "Ongoing Adaptive Evolution of ASPM" is a research dissertation from the University of Chicago's genetics department, which suggests that it's easily the most trustworthy source invoked here. The Jewish virtual library revels in Jewish historical facts, so the article plumbed from its thousands of documents may contain some sensational history or residual long-windedness, but nothing notable askew with any hard facts about population growth. However, Mandragora in a UK-based procurer of documents related to the occult and metaphysics, which suggests that its articles are actively sensationalized for the sake of camp and sales. However, considering that this is one of the more mundane resources on the site (others include invoking dragon spirits and speaking telepathically to plants) it is likely mostly factual, though the research could easily be faulty.