The Israeli government is intensifying the battle against teenage prostitution. Welfare Minister Meir Cohen recently toured the centers of prostitution for minors in south Tel Aviv including an organization which is trying to deal with this phenomenon.

A report published earlier this month explained that there is a vast gap between the need and the ability to deal with teenage prostitution.

Recently Minister Cohen allocated  6.5 million shekels to programs and centers designed to treat prostitution of minors.“Young men and women are going through hell. There’s a meat market. People who live 5 minutes from here have no idea what’s going on,” Cohen said with concern.

Despite the difficult scenes in the streets of Tel Aviv, the network is the main arena in which sexual encounters with minors are initiated.  There are about 6,000 sites that are platforms for sexual encounters. The Elem organization strives to locate these youth through the internet. “The difference between sexual acts among minors and adults is that adults receive money and minors receive objects,” explains Shani Nardiman, head of the Awake at Night Project.  “Minors may have sex in exchange for a place to sleep or even jeans or an iPhone.”

It is difficult to access an accurate scope for this problem. Most incidents are not even reported. According to “Elem” , this past year 620 minors were involved in prostitution, but the numbers are probably much higher.  Nardiman adds, ” According to research, a minor who receives something for a sexual act starts at age 12 or 13. Unfortunately, we reach them when they are 15 or 16.”

After locating the youth, the ability to treat them is very limited. This is an example of an apartment, a warm place where they can escape and rest; they receive support, a hot meal and hopefully a chance for a new beginning. Reut Guy explains ” Here they can take a shower, eat and get a hug. Sometimes we feel like we have to compete with pimps and clients. In order to compete, we need proper resources.”