In the wake of a report in Friday's Jerusalem Post, Kadima MK Marina Solodkin has sent a letter to Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni demanding that she investigate the treatment of visa applicants at Israel's embassy in Moscow and, if necessary, replace the consul there immediately.
In the letter, a copy of which was obtained by the Post, Solodkin cited accounts by two Russian Jewish women, both of whom had told the Post that when applying for tourist visas, Israeli consular officials had asked them to prove that they were not prostitutes.
In one instance, a consular official told Devorah Leah Bandorenko, an Orthodox Jew who covers her hair with a wig and works full time at the Chabad-Lubavitch Center in the Russian city of Volgograd, that he suspected her of being a prostitute seeking to work in the sex trade in Israel.
Bandorenko, who had applied in March in the hopes of seeing her 85-year old ailing grandmother, an Israeli citizen who lives in Karmiel, has yet to receive permission to visit Israel.
Another applicant, Inna Chizikova, a Russian Jew with grown children who edits a Jewish community newspaper, was asked in front of her husband and child whether she, too, was a prostitute.
Calling such treatment "abusive" and "degrading," Solodkin asked Livni "to personally conduct an urgent investigation of this matter and, should these facts prove correct, to replace the consul in Moscow immediately."
"I think that such behavior on the part of official representatives of the State of Israel causes grave damage both to the country and to its citizens, and especially those who are immigrants from the former Soviet Union," Solodkin said. "They live here, work and pay their taxes to the Treasury - but not in order that employees of the Israeli consulate serving in their country of origin should mistreat their family members and humiliate them."
Eddie Shapira, a Foreign Ministry spokesman in Jerusalem, vehemently denied that visa applicants at the embassy in Moscow are asked to prove that they are not prostitutes, but said that due to the seriousness of the allegations, an investigation has been launched.
"We have already asked the Moscow embassy to look into the matter," he said. "If it proves true, we will reiterate our instructions to consular officials to treat all applicants in a professional manner."