Israel’s first suicide bombing in over a year took place in Dimona on February 4th. Though the two terrorists involved were from Gaza, they began the journey to their target by ducking through a hole in a border wall with Egypt. The rest of their route highlights the porous nature of Israel’s own Egyptian border, and the threat of those who conspire to cross it illegally.
For the Magav, Israel’s border guard, keeping terrorists out of the country is a major concern, but not the only one. Far away from heavily patrolled border crossings with Gaza and the West Bank, and out in the hinterlands of the Sinai and Negev deserts, police strive to rebuff entrance to another unwanted immigrant group: Russian prostitutes.
Bringing foreign sex workers to cities like Tel Aviv means easy profits for their handlers. When legal transport isn’t possible, smuggling networks enlist rural cash-poor Bedouinsto facilitate border jumpings from nearby Egypt. Police respond by relying on calculated surveillance and night vision equipment to intercept crossings. Despite these efforts, illegal immigrants with futures in prostitution still make it through.
These cat-and-mouse games are similar to those being played out along America’s desert border with Mexico. Like the Magav, U.S. patrols employ advanced military technologies to guard a massive stretch of territory that far outstrips their manpower.
For illegal aliens who dodge capture, the reward is finding agricultural and service work with dollar wages exceeding anything to be found back home. For Russian prostitutes who find a way into Israel, the payoff is often a life of sexual slavery.
The film Women For Sale recounts this harsh lifestyle from the point of view of the prostitutes themselves. Their illegal immigrant status keeps them firmly under the psychological control of gangs who literally own their bodies, and pimps who ensure they turn a profit.
In Israel, trafficking for sexual exploitation was only made a crime in 2000. Before that, smuggling prostitutes was a safer alternative to running drugs, weapons and terrorists. That industry’s continuing legacy has given Israel prominent mention in annual U.S. and U.N. human trafficking reports.
But the bad press has had an effect. As NYU Professor Rakefet Zalashik tells the Forward’s Alana Newhouse on the latest episode of TJC Movie Talk, Israeli authorities have recently made a more concentrated effort to fight human traffickers and protect former-Soviet immigrants. As for the Magavnikim who watch the dusty border with Egypt, each night’s work is another opportunity to keep terrorists out — and to further block up the prostitute pipeline.
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