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Summary

Israel seeks to address the problem of human trafficking by coordinating the efforts of a number of government agencies and private organizations.  In 2006 it established the Office of the National Anti-Trafficking Coordinator (ONATC) in the Ministry of Justice.  The ONATC currently chairs an interministerial committee to study women and children involved in prostitution in Israel.  In 2014, the ONATC formed a working group with various ministries and a nongovernmental organization to address the problem of child prostitution.

Among other tasks, the ONATC is responsible for advocacy and the education of officials and the public about human trafficking.  It provides training for government officials, including police officers, social workers, immigration officers, state attorneys, and judges, as well as aid organizations and private-sector professionals, including medical professionals and members of the tourism industry.

Topics in the ONATC training programs have recently included the identification of trafficking victims, the vulnerability of domestic labor migrants, migrant human-trafficking victims, and the cultures of origin of trafficking victims.

I.  Introduction

Israel is classified by the US Department of State’s 2015 Trafficking in Persons Report as a Tier 1 country, having fully complied with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.  The report states that the Israeli government has “continued its efforts to prevent and raise awareness of human trafficking.”[1]  Israel’s classification upgrade from a Tier 2 country in the 2007 State Department report[2] to a Tier 1 category in the 2012 report[3] reflects concentrated efforts by the Israeli government to eliminate trafficking in persons within Israel’s territory.

Israel particularly seeks to address the problem of human trafficking by coordinating the efforts of several government agencies and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) working in this area.  Such coordination is the responsibility of the Office of the National Anti-Trafficking Coordinator (ONATC) in the Ministry of Justice.[4]  The ONATC was established in 2006 on the basis of a government decision to appoint an official from the Ministry of Justice to serve as an interministerial coordinator of governmental and nongovernmental activities in this area.[5]

The ONATC’s responsibilities include

ongoing communication and collaboration with various Israeli and international bodies; serving as an informative source of data regarding human trafficking globally and in Israel; building and maintaining a database of judicial decisions as well as expert opinions on the matter; providing guidance and consultation for legislative action; participating in parliamentary meetings; participating in inter-ministerial committees, including the Directors General Committee for combating trafficking; educating and raising awareness on human trafficking; training key professionals in the field (police, social workers, immigration officers, state attorneys, judges, medical professionals, and more). In addition, the Office has an active role regarding the annual Presidential ceremony honoring efforts of combating human trafficking.[6]

The ONATC chairs an interministerial committee appointed to study women and children in prostitution in Israel.  In 2014, it formed a working group with various ministries and an NGO to address child prostitution.[7]

This report provides a brief overview of Israel’s legal framework on human trafficking, describes the roles and responsibilities of the ONATC and other government agencies in enforcing laws against human trafficking, and provides information on training programs for law enforcement officers and personnel of other relevant agencies.  

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II.  Legal Framework

A.  International Law

Israel is a signatory to several conventions related to forced labor and human trafficking.  In 2006 it ratified the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, Supplementing the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime.[8]  In 2008, Israel ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography.[9]

B.  Domestic Law

On October 18, 2006, the Knesset (Israel’s Parliament) passed an amendment to the Penal Law (Amendment Law), thereby prohibiting human trafficking and subjecting convicted offenders to imprisonment for sixteen or twenty years (when the victim is a minor), forfeiture of property, and payment of monetary compensation to victims.[10]

The Amendment Law prohibits trading in persons for the purpose of subjecting them to one of the following:

  • Removal of an organ
  • Giving birth to a child and taking away the said child
  • Slavery or forced labor
  • Prostitution
  • Participation in a pornographic advertisement or exhibition
  • A sexual offense[11]

The Amendment Law establishes a special fund to which all forfeited property and fines imposed in connection with human trafficking must be transferred.  The fund’s assets are to be allocated for the following purposes:

  • Rehabilitation, treatment, and protection of trafficking victims (over half of the fund’s yearly assets)
  • Compensation (whole or partial) of individual victims who have been awarded such compensation by civil or criminal court judgments and have established that they have no reasonable possibility of enforcing the judgment
  • Crime prevention
  • Implementation of anti-trafficking legislation by law enforcement authorities[12]

According to Israel’s Ministry of Justice,

[t]hese purposes reflect the various aspects of the battle against trafficking, as established by international conventions: protection, prosecution and prevention.  Thus, the Fund is intended to be a tool to encourage the waging of this battle on all fronts.

This provision is an important precedent, in its emphasis upon the protection of victims, above and beyond the other purposes of the Fund.  This can be seen in the obligatory allocation of at least half of the yearly assets to the protection of victims and in the arrangement allowing for compensation of individual victims by the Fund, under certain circumstances.[13]

In addition to rights to rehabilitation and compensation, victims of human trafficking enjoy special procedural protections during the criminal process, including participation in in-camera proceedings, gag orders on information involving minors, receipt of information and ability to express opinions at various junctures of the criminal process, permission to testify outside the presence of the accused.  They also receive legal aid.[14]

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III.  Roles and Responsibilities of Government Agencies in Enforcing Human Trafficking Law

A.  Border Control and Law Enforcement

The entry of persons into Israel is controlled by Israel’s Population, Immigration and Border Authority (PIBA).[15]  The PIBA is responsible for the issue of entry visas to qualified applicants.  It currently grants foreign-worker visas to experts and to workers in ethnic restaurants, domestic helpers, and agricultural workers.[16]

Persons who enter Israel unlawfully, and even lawfully, can become victims of human trafficking if they are traded for one of the purposes listed under the Penal Law.[17]

The Israel Police is responsible for preventing crimes against trafficking victims once they enter Israeli territory, and the personnel of a number of agencies involved in human trafficking cases may participate in identifying victims and providing them with assistance, including social and medical services.

B.  Agency Roles

In recent years most victims of trafficking in Israel appear to have been women brought to Israel for prostitution.  According to testimony by the Ministry of Justice provided to the Knesset Committee for Promoting the Status of Women and for Gender Equality, Israeli authorities experience difficulties in identifying victims of sex trafficking and enforcing the law.  This is due to the lawful arrival of the victims.  Unlike victims who were previously smuggled into Israel via the Sinai desert, most victims of sex trafficking currently arrive in the country lawfully on three-month tourist visas.  Citizens of Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, and Belarus, the countries from which many of the victims arrive, are no longer required to obtain a visa before traveling to Israel and are therefore not screened by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs prior to their arrival.  The tourism sector, therefore, has been identified by Israeli authorities as a necessary partner in the fight against human trafficking.[18]

According to the testimony before the Knesset committee,

[t]he Ministry of Tourism has joined the interministerial activity in this area because they arrive as tourists.  Sometimes it is actually in a pretended organized group of travelers, and they arrive at hotels.  Everything is organized ahead of time in travel packages, which is why we must recruit the tourism sector, from the point of view of identification, prevention, reporting, etc.  So the Ministry of Tourism is recruited.

It is more difficult [to act] against private elements such as the Hotel Association, owners of hotels, the Travel Agent Association; it is apparently unrelated to them and they are only expected to make money.[19]

Various government agencies are involved in carrying out duties related to human trafficking within their respective areas of responsibilities.  These include the Ministry of Justice, which is responsible for indicting and prosecuting offenders, and providing legal assistance to victims; the Ministry of Health, which operates hospitals and anonymous clinics to which victims turn for medical help; the Ministry of Interior, which grants temporary work visas to victims for the purpose of rehabilitation; and the Ministry of Welfare and Social Services, which is responsible for operating shelters and providing social services for victims of human trafficking.[20] 

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IV.  Training Programs

A.  General Training in Human Trafficking

The Israeli government’s efforts to increase awareness in identifying trafficking victims were acknowledged in the State Department’s 2015 Trafficking in Persons Report, which stated that

[t]he government continued to widely circulate victim identification guidelines to government ministries, which regularly referred potential victims to the police to open an investigation and ensure the provision of protective services.  Authorities also continued to cooperate with NGOs on victim identification and referral.  The police continued a program with an NGO to help identify and refer protection sex trafficking victims picked up during police raids of brothels; police identified 28 victims during brothel raids in 2014.[21]

Recognizing that training and advocacy play an important role in the effort to combat trafficking, the ONATC provides information to educate the public on trafficking and victim recognition.  It further provides law enforcement with the training necessary to operate effectively.  The ONATC’s advocacy activities include media interviews, participation in conferences, and lecturing in various forums on human trafficking and the struggle to eliminate it in Israel.

The ONATC initiates, develops, and delivers expert anti-human trafficking training programs for professionals in various fields, government agencies, aid organizations, other relevant bodies, and the general public.[22] According to its website,

[t]hese trainings are specifically targeted at units or functions [sic] which may come in contact with human trafficking victims (or potential victims)[;] they are tailored to the needs of these functions and include legal content, description of relevant phenomena and the providing of tools for the identification of victims of trafficking and slavery.  Some of the trainings consist of an entire day or more of lectures, some are shorter, and each is tailored to the specific needs and limitations of its target audience.[23]

Between 2009 and 2011 the ONATC conducted special seminars on identifying victims for government representatives and NGOs that interact with labor migrants.  In addition, a special Guide for Identifying Victims of Slavery and Forced Labor, which incorporates papers presented by subject matter experts, was later published, with financing provided by the European Union.[24]

Among governmental and nongovernmental bodies that have received training from the ONATC in recent years are the following:

  • Migration authority: prosecution unit, border control, the RSD unit, the refused facility’s team in Ben Gurion airport, social workers from private offices in the nursing field (under the regulation of the migration authority).
  • The Israeli police: various central units (Tel-Aviv, Negev, Lachish, North etc), Lahav 433 unit, including the Saar department, the school for the investigation and intelligence unit.
  • Prison service: the Saharonim, Givon and Mattan detention facilities.
  • The Ministry of Foreign Affairs: training course for ambassadors and consuls leaving the country.
  • The Ministry of Justice: the prosecution, legal aid unit, the anti-money laundering authority, judges in the tribunal for detention regulation.
  • Court management: criminal judges, judges’ clerks.
  • The Ministry of Economics: labor inspectors.
  • The Ministry of health: hospitals (medical and social teams), the Levinsky clinic for sexually transmitted diseases.
  • United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
  • International bodies: specialists and professionals in the field, including judges and prosecutors.
  • Various Israeli NGOs dealing with vulnerable populations: Assaf foundation, center for refugees and migrants, Kav Laoved etc.
  • Public panels accompanying film screening, symposiums, and other events.
  • Academic institutions: The College for Management, Academic Center Rupin, Tel-Aviv University, Hebrew University, Mendal Institution etc.
  • High schools and youth facilities across the country.
  • Religious leaders.[25]

The ONATC plans to expand its training sessions in the coming year to new audiences, such as the private and business sectors.[26]

In 2014, Israel’s Ministry of Interior reported an increased focus on training social workers to identify potential cases of human trafficking among caregivers.  Furthermore, the Ministry of Tourism has reportedly adopted the United Nations World Tourism Organization’s (UNWTO’s) Global Code of Ethics in Tourism[27] and provided anti-trafficking training for government officials, tourism industry representatives and NGOs.[28]  Anti-trafficking training was similarly provided to Israeli diplomatic personnel.[29]

Topics in the ONATC training sessions in recent years have included human trafficking, the identification of trafficking victims, the vulnerability of labor migrants who engage in domestic work, migrant victims of human trafficking, and the cultures of origin of trafficking victims.[30]

In addition to conducting seminars and sharing information on human trafficking with relevant officials, the ONATC has coordinated special programs on human trafficking for students and the public at large.  Informational seminars on the dangers posed by human trafficking were provided not only in Israel but also in countries where victims originate.  The Israeli government has engaged in international exchanges of information with other countries to further improve its handling of the issue.[31]

B.  Special Training for Judges

An international seminar for judges on the role of the judiciary in combating human trafficking was conducted in Haifa, Israel, in October 2014.  The seminar was based on the joint collaboration of several Israeli government and international organizations.  Sponsors included Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the International Organization for Migration, the Institute of Advanced Judicial Studies, and the Israeli Ministry of Justice.[32]

The seminar included sessions on the following topics:

  • The international framework of combating trafficking in persons
  • Key issues and concepts that arise in trafficking cases
  • Patterns of trafficking, forms of exploitation, and the means used by traffickers
  • Psychological symptoms of trafficking victims
  • Evidential problems specific to trafficking cases
  • Best practices for the protection of victims
  • The rights of victims in criminal proceedings, including noncriminalization/nonpunishment
  • The importance of international cooperation
  • Mock trials highlighting core issues in the seminar[33]

Other programs are offered by the Institute of Legal Training for Attorneys and Legal Advisers of the Ministry of Justice (ILTALA).  In March 2015, for example, a one-day seminar on human trafficking was conducted by the ILTALA in Jerusalem and included sessions conducted by experts in international law, criminal law, legal assistance, and immigration.[34]

C.  Training for Police Personnel

Human trafficking and prostitution are mandatory training subjects for all Israeli police personnel.  The Israel Police conducts workshops for officers and investigators on identifying victims and on cultural diversity, a topic viewed as essential for identifying and understanding traits of victimization.[35]

D.  Training for Members of the Knesset

The Knesset is similarly involved in increasing awareness of human trafficking and in 2012 reportedly held a day-long conference for Knesset members on the cultures of East Asian countries, where labor migrants in Israel originate.[36] 

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Prepared by Ruth Levush
Senior Foreign Law Specialist
February 2016


[1] Israel, in U.S. Department of State, 2015 Trafficking in Persons Report 193–94 (July 2015) (2015 TIP Report), http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/245365.pdf, archived at https://perma.cc/WN3U-2YEN

[2] Israel, in U.S. Department of State, 2007 Trafficking in Persons Report 121 (June 2007) (2007 TIP Report), http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/82902.pdf, archived at https://perma.cc/8UBZ-SKSN.

[3] See Trafficking in Persons Report 2012: Tier Placements, U.S. Department of State, http://www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/2012/192363.htm (last visited Feb. 17, 2016), archived at https://perma.cc/VQP5-PSFE.

[4] The ONATC operates a comprehensive website detailing national plans, interministerial activities, and other relevant information on fighting human trafficking; see ONATC, http://www.justice.gov.il/Units/Trafficking/Pages/ default.aspx (in Hebrew, last visited Jan. 19, 2016), archived at https://perma.cc/QG9R-W64N.

[5] About the Unit, ONATC, http://www.justice.gov.il/Units/Trafficking/About/Pages/default.aspx (in Hebrew; last visited Feb. 1, 2016), archived at https://perma.cc/92QA-TQRF.

[6] About Us, ONATC, http://www.justice.gov.il/En/Units/Trafficking/Pages/About.aspx (last visited Feb. 1, 2016), archived at https://perma.cc/BM7F-7R4G.

[7] 2015 TIP Report, supra note 1, at 195.

[8] Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons Especially Women and Children, Supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, Nov. 15, 2000, 2237 U.N.T.S. 319, https://treaties.un.org/doc/Publication/UNTS/Volume%202237/v2237.pdf, archived at https://perma.cc/F8V9-ABLK.

[9] Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, May 25, 2000, 2171 U.N.T.S. 227, available at https://treaties.un.org/doc/Publication/CN/ 2000/CN.1032.2000-Eng.pdf, archived at https://perma.cc/U4HZ-EQ73.

[10] Penal Law, 5737-1977, Laws of the State of Israel (LSI) (Special Volume), §§ 374–377E, as amended by Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (Legislative Amendments) Law, 5766–2006, Sefer HaHukim [Book of Laws, SH] (official gazette) No. 2067 pp. 2–8.

[11] Penal Law § 377A; see also Rahel Gershuni, Ministry of Justice Department of Legislation and Legal Counsel, Israel’s New Comprehensive Trafficking Legislation 1, http://www.justice.gov.il/En/Units/ Trafficking/MainDocs/israeltraffickinglawexplained.pdf (last visited Jan. 11, 2016), archived at https://perma.cc/ 2GEQ-YYYS.

[12] Penal Law § 377E(d).

[13] Rahel Gershuni, Ministry of Justice Department of Legislation and Legal Counsel, Battle Against Trafficking in Persons: Israel’s New Comprehensive Trafficking Legislation 12, http://www.justice. gov.il/En/Units/Trafficking/MainDocs/israeltraffickinglawexplained.pdf (last visited Jan. 28, 2016), archived at https://perma.cc/A8JV-Z544.

[14] Id. at 14–16; see also Rahel Gershuni, Ministry of Justice Department of Legislation and Legal Counsel, Trafficking in Persons in Israel 22 (Apr. 2011), http://www.ungift.org/doc/knowledgehub/resource-centre/Governments/Israel_Ministry_of_Justice_TIP.pdf, archived at https://perma.cc/M86L-P8U9.

[15] Maria Rabinowitz, Review of Israel’s Activity in the Area of the Fight Against Human Trafficking: Handling of the Phenomenon of Trading in Women (Knesset Information and Research Center, Oct. 20, 2013), http://www.knesset.gov.il/mmm/data/pdf/m03296.pdf (in Hebrew), archived at https://perma.cc/34QP-HZBA.

[16] Foreign Workers, PIBA, http://www.piba.gov.il/subject/foreignworkers/pages/default.aspx (in Hebrew; last visited Jan. 28, 2016), archived at https://perma.cc/8XQT-VSX8.

[17] See discussion of § 377A of the Penal Law in Part II, above.

[18] Protocol No. 20: Hearing Before the Committee for Promoting the Status of Women and Gender Equality,20th Knesset5(Oct. 12, 2015)(statement of Meirav Shmueli, Facilitator of the Fight Against Human Trafficking in the Ministry of Justice), http://www.justice.gov.il/Units/Trafficking/MainDocs/20_ptv_314575.doc (in Hebrew; last visited Feb. 1, 2016), archived at https://perma.cc/CD85-U7GC.

[19] Id. (translated by author, R.L.).

[20] Id. at 52–65.

[21] 2015 TIP Report, supra note 1, at 194.

[22] Trainings and Advocacy, ONATC, http://www.justice.gov.il/En/Units/Trafficking/EffortsNew/Pages/trainings. aspx (last visited Feb. 1, 2016), archived at https://perma.cc/5K7E-7428.

[23] Id.

[24] ONATC, Guide for Identifying Victims of Slavery and Forced Labor, http://www.justice.gov.il/Units/ Trafficking/MainDocs/A%20Toolkit%20for%20Identifying%20Victims%20of%20Forced%20Labour%20and%20Slavery.pdf (in Hebrew; last visited Feb. 16, 2016), archived at https://perma.cc/N2PT-5ULC.

[25] Trainings and Advocacy, supra note 22.

[26] Id.

[27] Global Code of Ethics for Tourism (UNWTO 1999), http://dtxtq4w60xqpw.cloudfront.net/sites/all/files/ docpdf/gcetbrochureglobalcodeen.pdf, archived at https://perma.cc/RRP9-5BLG; see also UNODC-UNWTO Side Event on Human Trafficking in the Context of Tourism, UNWTO (Apr. 24, 2012), http://ethics.unwto.org/event/ unodc-unwto-side-event-human-trafficking-context-tourism, archived at https://perma.cc/BAD3-5BTV.

[28] See Seminar by the Ministry of Justice and the Authority for Promoting the Status of Woman in the Prime Minister’s Office: Responsible Tourism, Cooperation with the Private Sector in the Field of the Fight Against Human Trafficking (Sept. 8, 2014), http://www.justice.gov.il/Units/Trafficking/MainDocs/יום עיון תיירות אחראית .doc (in Hebrew), archived at https://perma.cc/5DCN-U63Z

[29] Rabinowitz, supra note 15, at 68.

[30] Id. at 66.

[31] Id. at 65.

[32] MASHAV et al., Invitation to International Seminar for Judges: The Critical Role of the Judiciary in Combating Trafficking in Human Beings, http://mctc.co.il/public/files/attachments/235/2hucfh.pdf (last visited Jan. 20, 2016), archived at https://perma.cc/N368-FRGY.

[33] Id. at 2.

[34] See, e.g., Training Agenda, Seminar on: “Trafficking in Persons” (Ministry of Justice, Mar. 12, 2015), http://index.justice.gov.il/Units/Trafficking/MainDocs/12.3.2015.doc (in Hebrew), archived at https://perma.cc/39NB-L6UZ

[35] See Rabinowitz, supra note 15, at 66–67.

[36] Id.

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Last Updated: 03/18/2016