Knesset says key to fighting prostitution is the clientele

But a J'lem prostitute claims, "until you teach their wives to be good at sex, I'll still have clients."

By SHEERA CLAIRE FRENKEL
November 10, 2005 02:49
4 minute read.
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She greets her customers on a sunny spot of sidewalk just in front of the hummus stand that sells, she says, the best hummus in Jerusalem. Sometimes, before they head back to the hotel or apartment where the real exchange will take place, she pushes them to buy a small container of the grainy spread. The proprietors are, after all, close friends. Sex, she says, always smells like hummus to her. Rachel, which is the name she uses with her customers, is an Arab-Israeli prostitute in east Jerusalem. But there are no damp alleys, or dark and furtive meetings for Rachel. In the full light of day she sits casually, her slim legs crossed ladylike under a long skirt, and her manicured nails rapping the table in front of the store. "My customers come to me, here, during the day," she says. "When night comes you can trust men less. The darker it gets, the less you should trust them. Especially the Jews that dress like night." The Jews she describes are haredi, or ultra-orthodox, men. Often they come disguised, she says, with their traditional garb of formal, black suit and fedora tucked inside a duffle bag. They make up more than half of her clientele, she says, while the next largest group is Russian immigrants. Now, her clientele is the focus of the new fight against prostitution, a campaign launched by the Knesset's Committee on the Status of Woman Wednesday. "You can't just fight prostitution by attacking the woman," says MK Zehava Gal-On (Meretz), chairwoman of that committee. "We need to be approaching and educating the men, and examining the communities that they come from." Gal-On says that the new campaign is based on models from foreign countries such as the US and Canada, that have stepped up their fight against prostitution over the past four years. Those countries are making men the new focus of their efforts in the hopes that they can dry up the business by deterring the customers. The committee is also considering enacting punitive measures such as fines, or confiscating the vehicles of men who are caught with prostitutes. But Rachel sees no point in the approach. "You can 'educate' the men all you like," she says. "But until you teach their wives to like sex, to be good at sex and make it good and healthy for them, I will still have clients." Rachel says that many of her clients share a common story. A young, religious couple marries, she says, with little to no sexual experience and finds themselves unable to please each other. "They don't know what they are doing - nobody does in the beginning, not even me," she says. "The woman is sometimes taught to think of sex as a bad thing, a dirty thing, a thing of duty. The men have waited so long for a woman and now they find it boring, so they come to me." Many of those men post on Web sites that allow people to remain anonymous, such as the Jerusalem section of craigslist.org, which has an entire category called "erotic services." Over the past month, several of those postings have specified "discreet" services for religious men. Gal-On, however, insists that the clientele of prostitutes come from all sectors of society, and that an educational campaign has been shown, statistically, to reduce prostitution. "We educate them as to what it really means to go to the brothels so that they understand that this is really a form of rape," says Gal-On. "This is a new approach we are trying, because we feel that it is really the customers that are creating this demand and pushing the industry." The committee hopes that this approach will also curb Israeli men's use of prostitutes abroad, especially in countries such as Thailand, where those services are popular and readily available. "This type of treatment of woman anywhere diminishes the status of all women," Gal-On argues. "It is a main, underlying issue of teaching clientele that this is wrong." For now, Rachel says she feels no threat to her flow of clientele. The mother of two says that she makes a good living from her work, up to NIS 2,000 for a full night of her time, and has no plans to stop. "They still have the wrong idea," she says. "If they really wanted to stop prostitution they would teach everyone to have healthy sexual attitudes. Then I would not be necessary anymore."


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