“Sex offenders tend to move from country to country to avoid jail, but what makes Israel unique is the Law of Return, which essentially grants unhindered access to anyone who is Jewish to come here without any real screening,” said Manny Waks, the chief executive officer of Kol v’Oz, a newly formed nonprofit that aims to prevent child sexual abuse in the global Jewish community.
The Law of Return grants automatic citizenship in Israel to those who meet its definition of a Jew.
Among those accused of sexual abuse who have fled to Israel, Waks cited the prominent case of Malka Leifer, the former principal of a religious girls’ school in Melbourne, who allegedly assaulted eight of her charges. She is now under house arrest, and the Australian authorities are seeking her extradition. Waks noted several other cases of pedophiles and alleged pedophiles from the United States, Britain and the Netherlands who had fled to Israel either after being charged or to avoid being charged. .
“It seems to us Israel is increasingly becoming a refuge for pedophiles and alleged pedophiles,” said Waks. “It’s an easy get-out-of-jail card for them.” According to research data he cited, one in five children in Israel experiences sexual abuse.
“There’s a range of factors that suggest there may be a significantly higher proportion within the ultra-Orthodox community,” said Waks. “I think any closed community would have increased cases, because these cases are silenced. They’re swept under the carpet.