(Illustration)Flash 90

The Knesset held a discussion on the issue of child abuse within the haredi community on Tuesday.

Manny Waks, the CEO of child abuse advocacy group Kol v'Oz, warned those present that "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."

Tuesday's discussion was in preparation for a special Knesset session devoted to the issue, which will take place after Passover.

Though born in Israel, Waks grew up in an Australian Chabad community and was himself sexually abused by yeshiva staff. His family says that their neighbors ostracized them for speaking out against the crimes.

He quoted studies that found one out of every five Israeli children has been sexually abused, and he expressed concern that it is a particularly difficult problem in the haredi communities. 

"There’s a range of factors that suggest there may be a significantly higher proportion within the haredi community," he explained. "I think any closed community would have increased cases, because these cases are silenced. They’re swept under the carpet. Not only that, but in the haredi community, they don’t even talk about sex, so how can they talk about sexual abuse?"

Waks added that a number of accused and convicted child molesters have come to Israel in order to escape prosecution. "It seems to us Israel is increasingly becoming a refuge for pedophiles and alleged pedophiles. It’s an easy get-out-of-jail card for them."

It should be noted that a number were also extradited to their home countries after their criminal past came to light.

Kol v'Oz is pushing for the Knesset to extend the statute of limitations on sexual crimes, to allow victims a longer window to file complaints.