Ex-deputy deputy mayor of Tel Aviv Arnon Giladi was named on Thursday as the former senior municipal official suspected of paying a 15-year-old boy for sex.
Giladi, who is currently a member of the city council for the Likud party, has denied the accusations, which were revealed in a series of Hebrew media reports on Wednesday. A Tel Aviv court authorized publication of Giladi’s identity, though he has yet to face charges.
In a Wednesday interview with the Israel Hayom daily, “Yair” — whose real name was not revealed — said he left his home at the age of 13 and lived on the streets of Tel Aviv.
In order to make money for food, he eventually found himself with no other options other than work as a prostitute.
At the age of 15, he met Giladi. “He arrived in his car, and I remember there was an awful smell and a very nervous man inside,” Yair recalled.
“He’d pay me 250-300 shekels, and I’d go and buy alcohol in order to blur out what I was going through. I only wanted it to stop. I wasn’t attracted to him; I was disgusted by him,” Yair said, adding that he continued maintaining contact with Giladi because he was thought that this was how to maintain clients, which he needed in order to pay for food.
He said they met once a week for roughly half a year. “You have to understand that in order to get through this thing, you need to be on alcohol or drugs afterward to forget what you went through,” Yair said, explaining how his life further deteriorated after meeting Giladi, who was one of his first clients
After several years on the streets, Yair found a shelter and began a rehabilitation process. While walking on the street one day, he spotted a picture of Giladi and froze. He snapped a photo of the picture on his phone and sent it to his social worker, telling her that Giladi had paid for sex with him when he was a minor. However, he decided to try and put the matter behind him and focus on his recovery.
Several years after that, at the age of 24, he had a more personal run-in with Giladi. The Tel Aviv councilman pulled up to Yair as he stood outside his apartment and beckoned him. The latter chose to enter the car, but began recording the conversation, asking him if he was Arnon Giladi. The councilman insisted that wasn’t his name and proceeded to offer Yair 150 shekels. The young man left the scene before the interaction could develop any further, he told Israel Hayom.
In recent weeks, when allegations of sexual misconduct against Israel Gay Youth president Gal Uchovsky and Tel Aviv councilman Etai Pinkas Arad — both prominent LGBTQ activists who stepped down from their positions amid the allegations against them — Yair decided to confront Giladi about what he had done to him.
“We met at a cafe in Tel Aviv and I hurled accusations at him. I told him about the consequences of his actions, and how he made me hate myself. He immediately knew who I was and remembered the incidents, but he was mostly busy whining to me about his family problems and the health problems of some of those close to him,” Yair told Israel Hayom.
“I filmed the encounter with a hidden camera, which he suspected, but just before we parted, he tried to touch me again,” he added.
Afterward, Yair said Giladi sent him a text saying he was so glad that they met. The former deputy mayor reached out the next day to invite Yair to dinner, but the latter declined, assuming Giladi would use the encounter to shut him up.
The interview sparked a flurry of responses, with Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai calling the allegations against Giladi serious.
“The truth should be clarified by law enforcement and if criminal acts have been committed he should be prosecuted. It is important to say in principle — there is no tolerance for sexual assault of any kind, all the more so when it comes to boys and girls,” he tweeted.
While no longer a deputy mayor, Giladi remains a member of Tel Aviv’s city council and it is unclear whether Huldai even has the authority to fire him.
“The evidence that continues to be published about sexual assault in the LGBT community reminds us once again how important it is to speak out,” said Labor chair Merav Michaeli in a statement. “I believe the victims. Now the police must exhaust every procedure, and we as a society must make sure that this stops happening. “