Sleeping beauties – a photo essay about prostitution in Tel Aviv

„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. In the present, there are around 300 brothels in Tel Aviv.

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 All the rooms on the ground floor of the building in this photo are sex parlors.

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 Sex bar in the old central bus station area, Tel Aviv These streets are crowded with sex bars, sex shops and sex parlors.

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 The old central bus station area (also called Neveh Sha’anan) is the red light district of Tel Aviv. Over the years, it became mostly populated with foreign and illegal workers. Several suicide bombing attacks have been carried out here during the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian confrontation. In the present, it is the worst place in Tel Aviv, a world of prostitution and drugs, with a high crime rate. Who can rent here a cheap appartment or open up a shop, is considered lucky, since so many people sleep on the streets or in deserted buildings. They have no other place to go to.

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 Some of the prostitutes that work in Neveh Sha’anan in Tel Aviv sleep on the street. This is one of places where they take drugs and hang out with drug dealers.

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The Neveh Sha’anan area is where the bottom of society gathers: junkies, prostitutes, illegal workers and homeless people. Everything is falling apart here, the buildings too. Garbage is everywhere.

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 Ira, 23 – Her mother left Russia after the divorce, together with her two daughters, hoping for a better life in Israel. Ira started to take drugs, her mother gave up on her and doesn’t let her in the house anymore, scared that her other daughter will take Ira’s example. She lives now on the street and works as a prostitute. After a two-day-storm and heavy rain when she slept on the streets, despite all the hot tea and blankets, she was shivering the whole day at the shelter for prostitutes.

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 Jasmin is a Palestinian prostitute who works and lives in a sex parlor in the Neva Sha’anan area.

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 Many of the older prostitutes are mothers whose children have been taken away by the Israeli authorities and sent to boarding schools or given to adoption. Jasmin is one of them.

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 Jasmin is one of the few prostitutes working in the old central bus station area who doesn’t take drugs. She is an alcoolic.

Jasmin waiting for clients on a Friday night.

 Jasmin waiting for clients on a Friday night.

On a Friday night, waiting for customers.

 On a Friday night, waiting for customers.

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 „I hate prostitution, I hate heroin. But there is nothing else in my life.“ Eden, 23

Judith, 35

 Judith.

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 Judith is the mother of three children, all taken away by the authorities and given to adoption.

Judith, preparing to leave the shelter for prostitutes.

 Judith, preparing to leave the shelter for prostitutes.

Before starting to work on the streets, Judith prepars the first dose of drugs.

 Before starting to work on the streets, Judith prepars the first dose of drugs.

After taking drugs, at the old central bus station.

 After taking drugs, at the old central bus station.

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 Judith.

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 …and taking drugs again. Judith has been at the rehabilitation center ten times already but started to take drugs again after a month, every time. She wishes to quit again.

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 Working in a courtyard.

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 Julia, a prostitute from Russia, has a very bad leg infection from injecting drugs. She runs away from the hospital every day to get drugs.

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 Last time Julia showed up at the shelter for prostitutes, she could barely walk. She was drunk, on drugs and in a lot of pain because of the leg infection.

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 The volunteers at the shelter called the ambulance. They said they will probably have to cut off Julia’s leg in order to save her life.

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 They did manage in the hospital to save Julia’s leg. Three days later she has been seen on the street again, looking for drugs.

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 Natalia is going to give birth to her baby in a couple of weeks. She has been on drugs and alcool during her whole pregnancy. By now, the child has been born and is under medical care.

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Natalia left the hospital in two days after the delivery and after another two days she started to work again as a prostitute.

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Alma is very young. She works as a prostitute and is drug-addicted.

 Alma is very young. She works as a prostitute and is drug-addicted.

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 „Door of Hope“ offers for drug-addicted prostitutes lunch, clean clothes, the possiblity to take a shower and to rest during the day.

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 Because of the insufficient number of volunteers who work at this shelter for prostitutes, the place is open only between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. They hope that they will be able soon to keep the place open 24/24.

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 At „Door of Hope“, a shelter for prostitutes located in the old central bus station area in Tel Aviv.

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Leaving the shelter for prostitutes at 5 p.m. and going to work on the streets.

 Leaving the shelter for prostitutes at 5 p.m. and going to work on the streets.

Leaving the shelter for prostitutes at 5 p.m. and going to work on the streets.

 

Leaving the shelter for prostitutes at 5 p.m. and going to work on the streets.

 

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 Leaving the shelter for prostitutes at 5 p.m. and going to work on the streets. The hardest part is when I have to wake up the girls at 5 p.m. and put them on the street. And I know what they will do on the street. And this kills me.- Dave, runs a shelter for drug-addicted prostitutes in Tel Aviv

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 This woman has been attacked on the street the night before. The old central bus station area is the unsafest one in Tel Aviv.

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 The old central bus station area, Tel Aviv, on the street with the most sex parlors. Sometimes it’s surprising to see who the customers are.

The sex parlors are located on the ground floor of this building.

 The sex parlors are located on the ground floor of this building.

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 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.

In the red light district of Tel Aviv.

 In the red light district of Tel Aviv.

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 …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.