Israel's dedicated coronavirus hotels, where some confirmed COVID-19 carriers are sent to self-isolate, appear to have become hubs for alcohol, drugs and sexual abuse, according to testimonies from former tenants and employees.
The recent rise in coronavirus infections among Israel’s younger population means the country's coronavirus hotels - which are under the authority of the IDF's Home Front Command - are packed with young men and women, all crowded together under one roof with very little supervision.
According to former residents and sources working in these hotels, violence, drug and alcohol abuse, as well as sexual violence are all an everyday occurrence. “It is not ok what goes on there, sexual harassment happens all the time,” says one source.
One such case, which has finally brought to everyone's attention the misconduct occurring in these facilities is a suspected rape of a 13-years-old girl by 21-year old Yarin Sherf.
According to the police, the man formed a friendship with the teen to gain access to her room and then raped, choked and beat the alleged victim for two days straight, all while supplying her with drugs and alcohol.
“The security staff at these hotels know that as soon as a sexual assault is reported, their first phone call is to the police and the second phone call is to me," explains Shoham Samson, a social worker employed at one of the hotels.
“Beyond having conversations with the victim and filing a police complaint, we offer to move them to another hotel - all while demanding that the offender leaves the hotel at their own expense,” Samson adds. “This situation in hotels is very complex. When a girl is assaulted in a hotel but cannot return home because she tested positive for the pathogen, it is very difficult.”
According to Samson, sexual violence is not directed exclusively toward women.
"I had an incident of sexual assault late at night, when a man assaulted another boy. In this case the mother asked her son be evacuated from the hotel and we allowed it at that moment in a discreet and respectful manner."
The IDF said the hotels have social, psychological and medical professionals that help and respond to any unlawful event if it occurs.
"Enforcement against any criminal incident, including sexual harassment, is done by the police. Upon reciving complaints regarding violation of procedures, sexual harassment and other exceptional incidents, Home Front Command immediately opens an 'exceptional incident' procedure and summons police to the hotel.”
Israel Police said in responce: “The police see the fight against sexual offenses as a public mission. The investigations are handled in an orderly and meticulous manner by a skilled team of interrogators, all while recognizing the emotional aspects and complexity of each case. During the investigation all necessary actions are taken to investigate the truth."