Rabbi Ratzon Arusi, the Chief Rabbi of Kiryat Ono and member of the Chief Rabbinate Council, on Wednesday attacked vehemently the precedent ruling of Tel Aviv Municipal Court Judge Itai Hermelin, which empowered groups of sex workers to operate a legal brothel. Hermelin, who was elevated to municipal judge from his post as instructor for the Criminal Justice Clinic at Tel Aviv University, decided that since by closing down a building where prostitution took place he would be forcing the sex workers to take their business to the streets, he set up conditions under which sex workers could operate the facility legally.
Needless to say, this did not go well with Rabbi Arusi, whose community lies a few miles down the same major thoroughfare, Yitzhak Sadeh Street, where the building of ill repute stands. In a class he gave on Wednesday at the Natzach Israel yeshiva, which was recorded by Srugim, Rabbi Arusi accused Judge Hermelin of turning the entire state of Israel into “one big brothel.”
Rabbi Arusi, who is one of the top experts on integrating Jewish Law into Israeli State Law, criticized “a certain judge who permitted women to establish for themselves a house of ill repute and permitted men to acquire prostitution services. And that judge has declared that a woman’s possession of her own body is autonomous and the state may not interfere with her life and if this is what she desires — then if she opens a brothel by herself or with her friends it does not constitute an illegal act and she mustn’t be harassed. Likewise the customer is autonomous and if he desires prostitution services there’s no reason to prevent him from receiving them.”
As far as Rabbi Arusi is concerned, the Hermelin ruling might be that gulping sound at the end of the slippery slope of social and spiritual corruption that have engulfed Israel for decades. “He has brought us to the very state about which the prophet Isaiah screamed: ‘See how the faithful city has become a prostitute! She once was full of justice; righteousness used to dwell in her — but now murderers!’ (Isaiah 1:21). The prophet didn’t refer only to prostitutes, of course. Corruption in government and in the judiciary is also considered prostitution.”
“Judaism is about the sanctity of life,” Rabbi Arusi insisted, explaining, “It means that man is not an animal, but a man, created in the image of God and behaving in this manner. He says yes to having a sex life, but in the framework of holiness and values, not promiscuity and licentiousness.”
It should be noted that the judge’s revolutionary ruling was inspired by the state prosecutor, who was attempting to expose the sex workers as liars, proving undeniably that the sex work in the building on Yitzhak Sadeh Street was actually run in an orderly fashion, in a manner befitting a permanent business. Soon enough, the judge began to wonder what purpose would be served by shutting down this well-organized facility of ill repute and dumping the women back on the street.
Of course, the downside is, as Rabbi Arusi said, not only accepting openly that one of the things Jews in the Jewish State are allowed to do is use sex workers, but that most Jews today don’t thing this is outrageous.