Kibbutzim hit by sex assaults on girls

The reputation of the Israeli kibbutz as a model of egalitarian communal bliss has suffered a fresh blow with the emergence of evidence showing an explosion of sex assaults on young women and girls.

The reputation of the Israeli kibbutz as a model of egalitarian communal bliss has suffered a fresh blow with the emergence of evidence showing an explosion of sex assaults on young women and girls.

An investigation by Israel's respected Ha'aretz newspaper, published yesterday, found that Israel's rape crisis centres and hotlines for women received hundreds of calls last year from women who were sexually victimised in their childhood in kibbutzim. "There is hardly a kibbutz in the country where cases of indecent acts, sexual assault or rape have not occurred," said the newspaper, which supplied chilling examples of individual cases, including incest.

Yet there have been no complaints filed with the police - a conspiracy of silence that appears to reflect the closed and tight-knit nature of kibbutz societies. The director of one rape-crisis centre, Lizi Saguy - herself from a kibbutz - told the newspaper that the true number of cases is likely to be double that reported.

There were "girls who were 'fair game' - whom it was permitted (to victimise)," she said, "A stranger won't understand but on the kibbutz, sick as it may sound, the girls who were hurt were always from weak families."

She compared the predatory kibbutz male to "the tiger in the wild that marks out the wounded, limping ewe for himself, and hurls himself on her - that was exactly how the attacking males, adolescents and adults, in the kibbutz identified the victims."

It is the latest of a series of revelations about life within kibbutzim - Hebrew for communal settlements - which is causing the country to begin reappraising them. These include the discovery that 30 per cent of the 130,000 people on Israel's 270 kibbutzim live below the poverty line.

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