In 1989, a young boy named Jacob Wetterling went missing in St. Joseph, MN in the United States. A  massive search was conducted and numerous leads were generated and logged. These leads became the foundation of a massive database that brought about the development of a sex offender list in Minnesota.

Ever since then, every state in the United States has instituted a Sex Offender Registry that is open to the public. The contents of such a registry make public offenders names, pictures, form of offense, jail time and–most importantly–where they live. You might think that once a person has been convicted, let’s say, of pedophilia, he or she will find a hole to crawl into and not see the light of day again. Wrong! They move into communities, “normal” every-day communities. If neighbors are unaware of the presence of a pedophile in their neighborhood, there is nothing that they can do to protect themselves or their children. (There are over 750,000 [!] registered sex offenders in the USA; granted not all of them are predatory).

Over the years, since this move was taken of building such national and international databases, there have been arguments both in favor of and against such a registry. Before speaking about Israel, let’s take a brief look at some of the arguments, in general, both pro and con.

The Debate in the United States
  • PRO:
    Awareness of who is in your neighborhood and one can be careful and warn others.Registries are for protection. They let you know if there is anybody in your area who you need to watch out for.
  • They let people know what the person looks like and whom they target as victims. (If they target four year old girls, and you have a four year old girl, you know to take even greater precautions)
  •  Acts as a possible deterrent to future crimes.
  •  More easily monitored by Law Enforcement officials

CON:

  • It is a form of dehumanization and becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy
    People who read the list, fearful and ignorant, ostracize the offenders, mock them, drive them away. Society shuns the offenders and hurts them emotionally. Their offense becomes a scar FOR LIFE.
  •  For no other crime  does there exist a similar registry of offenders.
  • Often individuals take it upon themselves to eradicate these offenders. There are numerous cases where sexual offenders, even years after their crime, get murdered by their neighbors because they saw the offender’s name in an online registry.

What about Israel?

These are merely a small sampling of the various arguments on both sides of the issue. When you are speaking about Israel and Jewish neighborhoods, there are additional “negatives” that are raised:

  • It’s Lashon Hara (evil speech)
  • It will hurt a family’s chance for a shidduch (match) for their child
  • You are not providing a chance for the offender to do Teshuva (repent).

And yes, this list also can be longer.

Before addressing the need in Israel for such a registry, I want to address that last list of negatives. In the Halachot of Lashon Hara, one has the right (obligation) to protect his fellow man from injury, both physical and monetary. If, for example, you know an electrician does shoddy work or cheats, and a friend of your’s is going to use this individual, you have the right/obligation to inform him. (You may not exaggerate, but must just state the facts.) It is the same in this case: a pedophile can NEVER be rehabilitated…never. Therefore, that individual has put him/herself in the situation wherein the public may be informed of their presence.

The next argument against such a registry is it will make it more difficult to get a shiduch for the family members. This old canard has been brought out nearly any time there is an issue regarding “sex.” Be it child sex abuse, spousal sex abuse, etc. there are always those wishing to sweep it under the rug so as not to make it difficult to get that shiduch. While I GREATLY sympathize with the sentiment (after all, the offender’s daughter was not at fault!), we need to look at the ramifications: If a community is unaware of an offender for this reason and the individual continues to offend, he/she has created more and more VICTIMS, who will carry that with them for the rest of their lives! Balance that injury, pain and suffering with the difficulty in getting a shiduch to reportage and it seems to me that the solution is obvious.

As far as Teshuva–no one is beyond Teshuva and it eludes NO ONE. Every single Jew can repent. While the offender can not be cured, he can be monitored and can protect not only society, but also himself on his quest to do Teshuva.

So, why does Israel need a National Sex Offender Registry? Many reasons: Due to the taboo of the subject in so many circles (shiduch talk, etc)  it will finally bring the offenders out to the public eye and BY LAW require information to be public knowledge. The wrong of damaging someone’s ability to find a shidduch is much less than the damage done by a sex offender.

This is not a small, minor problem. There are weekly reports of new allegations, charges and convictions all the time against offenders.  As of 2009, there were 1300 sex offenders IN PRISON in Israel with no real numbers as to how many were not in prison. [See the formal website of the Israeli Prison Service. Available atwww.ips.gov.il (in Hebrew).] About 60 percent of convicted sex offenders in Israel have committed offenses against children under the age of 13. (ibid.)

It would give law enforcement officers a better handle on their ability to protect the public as the monitoring and reporting system would require compliance from the offenders. It helps to inform on a suspect pool in a certain area, in case of (G-d forbid), an attack. [While much of the above information relates to pedophilia, there is an equal amount of information regarding rape in Israel and the numbers continue to climb. As of 2007, the amount of rapes reported per year was over 3,000. (http://www.1202.org.il/English/template/default.asp?siteId=1&maincat=18)]

A brief article such as this is in no way meant to be an all-encompassing article to present all the arguments for such a registry. It is meant to raise a level of awareness and hopefully bring a dialogue on the subject to the Knesset. Remember, much of what has happened over the last 66 years in the Knesset has been due to social action and raising consciousness levels.

It is my hope that there are others out there who will read this, agree with it and be willing to also make the effort that this topic become part of the national agenda.

We need to protect our citizens from known terrorists, from unknown terrorists and from all other forms of violence. This is one area that has gone long enough with no “official” methods of protecting our citizens.

It is time to change that!