You learn the most interesting things, sometimes, on airplanes.
Today, flying from Delaware to California, I sat by chance beside an old acquaintance who is both a committed, observant Jew, and a man outraged by the Israeli sex trade.
Yes, you read that right: the Israeli sex trade.
"I support Israel with all my heart," he told me. "But human rights must come first."
This, I discovered upon reaching my hotel, is a story that has been reported in the mainstream media since 2005, but somehow has failed to gain traction or attention in the United States.
According to sources as varies as CBS News, Ynetnews, Al Jazeera, and the Israel Women's Network, here are the bare facts:
Thousands of women--the current estimates range from a low of 3,000 to more than 10,000--have been smuggled into Israel over the past 5-7 years to become prostitutes. Many if not most of these women are from former Soviet republics, lured through false advertising.
The price of a young woman in Israel is roughly $8-10,000. In the dozens (if not hundreds) of Tel Aviv brothels they work 18-hour days, turning $30 tricks, for which they get to keep approximately 10% of the proceeds, the remainder going to pay off their debts.
The Israel Women's Network has been pushing for legislation to create shelters for these women, to get them out of the shadows and find them help, but--hey, guess what?--little has actually happened.
The US government officially acknowledges the status of Israel as a trafficker in human beings, but doesn't list it in the absolute worst category because the government is apparently attempting to correct some of the worst abuses.
You have to wonder what kind of gasping fish-out-of-water look you'd get from one of our presidential candidates if confronted with the question, "Will you link future aid to Israel to documented progress on eliminating its international sex trade, forced prostitution, and human slavery?"
John? Hillary? Barack?