Yitzhak was lucky to get the parking spot along Tel Aviv's fashionable Ben Yehuda Street. It was after all thursday night and the traffic was bustling. Rolling up the windows of his Ford Sierra, he tossed his newspaper in the child's seat; pulled out his phone and called his home. " Hi Honey, I'm just going to pick up some groceries and head home". then walking passed the flower shop and the supermarket he he headed into a seemingly innocuous apartment building proclaiming the words"Mo'adon Briut" or Health Club. Yitzhac entered the foyer, decorated in red velvet and yellow lights, where four scantily dressed women sat smoking and drinking tea. Yitzhak pointed to a well-endowed blonde female, well into her forties. The woman took Yitzhak into a back cubicle, complete with massage table and adorned with sexy pin-ups,for the sales pitch. "Hi Sweetie," she began in a heavy Russian accent, "My name is Lana. A blow job is 120 shekels straight sex is 100 shekels, a bisexual show is 150 shekels and two women will cost you 250 shekels."
Ten minutes later Yitzhak gets a kiss from Lana as he hands her a 20 shekel tip and emerges from the health club zipping his pants and checking his wallet is still in his back pocket.
On that summer Thursday night in Tel Aviv, Yitzhak just happened to be one of the many hundreds of Israeli men who escaped work or wives in order to pay for sex. Prostitution, has become an Israeli national pastime and obsession. Next to the stock market and the diamond business, it is one of Israels fastest growing industries. And, many fear, it is a time-bomb waiting to go off in a country renowned for explosions.
Tel Aviv, once a sleepy town by the sea, has always been the centre of Israeli night life but has now become Israels sexual capital where street walkers, call girls and lap dancers service a clientele ranging from husbands to Rabbis, soldiers to guest workers. this growth industry plus sado-masochistic brothels and sex clubs advertise in Israels most prominent newspapers, offering every thing from phone sex in Arabic to large Russian bisexuals for 300 shekels an hour.
"Its absolutely incredible." claims a cynical Tel Aviv detective, Imagine hookers placing adds in the London and the New York Times. This doesn't happen anywhere than this nuthouse of a country,"( obviously he has never read the Sydney daily telegraph and the local rag Express bi wkly.)
"Each night I bring with me a carton of 60 condoms.' claims Michal, a seasoned pro with a battered face who works the twisted alleyways behind the bustling Ramat Gan stock exchange. "When the carton is empty, I've made my nights fill and then I go home.
Perhaps even more interesting than the women(and men in drag) Who sell themselves in Tel Aviv are their clients. A good percentage of the men are Ultra Orthodox Jews, pious men who follow the Halacha, the law that guides Jewish life, including when a man can and cannot have sex with his wife: the Halacha also dictates that these men cannot be with 'harlots' in their own city.
So, on Thursday afternoons (boy's night out in Israel), bus loads of Ultra Orthodox Jews travel from Jerusalem, Haifa and points beyond to Tel Aviv for a few moments of passion in a massage parlour, behind a sand dune or in an alleyway.
Others are soldiers, 18-year old conscripts and 50 year old reservists heading home to wife and kids from a stint along the Lebanese border. others are accountants, teachers and lawyers, policemen and politicians.
At the other end of the spectrum is Tel Aviv's seaside and ultra-chic Ha Yarkon street where there is a 200 shekel a trick massage parlour next door to the labor party HQ. last June the pm went there for a meeting with his ministers , the masseuses at the Establishment asked the bodyguards to move their bullet proof cars as it was turning customers away.
Arab prostitutes in order to survive need to service both sides of the Arab-Israeli equation, though some find their Jewish customers only come to them after some major incident involving terrorism in order to get their own brand of sexual revenge.
The question arises, was all that pandemonium in the forties really a rush to get to the land of everlasting bonking?.