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Never Awake – In the City that Never Sleeps
“I hate prostitution, I hate heroin. But there is nothing else in my life.” Eden, 23
Prostitution and drug addiction are linked in Israel. Most of the prostitutes (estimations vary between 60 % and 90 %) are also drug addicts, mainly to heroine, which is the most common drug in Israel. Some women become prostitutes only to finance their addiction. Prostitutes in the old central bus station area (the red light disrict in Tel Aviv) earn as little as 50 shekels (around 10 euros) for sexual services and some of them sleep with up to 30 men a day. It is estimated that 70% of the female prostitutes in Tel Aviv come from the former Soviet countries and about 1,000 women are brought into Israel illegally each year. Prostitution in Israel has been dominated by Russians since the mass immigration from the former Soviet Union in the 1990s. At the beginning of the 1990s, only in three years, the number of massage parlors run by Russian immigrants rose from 14 to 111.
…and a few words about the personal character of this project: When I had started to work on this photo essay, although I had been volunteering at the shelter for prostitutes in Tel Aviv, I spent my evenings partying, then going home to the nice, warm place where I was staying. But I kept thinking, the photos won’t be good enough because I am not close enough. So I moved to the shelter, slept in the same room as the girls, used the same shower, ate from the same plates. Sometimes I waited for the ladies on the street while they were with a customer, wondering if I ever get to see them again. One of them came back running once, scared because the customer got violent. She managed to escape this time without getting beaten up. I wish I could tell her that she will never be in danger again and everything will be OK. But I can’t.
Photographer: Emese Benko
Camera: Canon SLR