A testimony, with chorus
In response to a recent report in Haaretz newspaper about tapes discovered from the 1990's, that reveal how Jewish religious right wing groups used prostitutes as a coercion tactic to acquire Palestinian property in East Jerusalem.
KOOS – a forty year old woman
A DISEMBODIED HISS
A DISEMBODIED HISS:
You want a girl?
How many do you want?
How old do you want?
Enter KOOS, stage left. She looks like a vagina. Or a gate. Or a city.
Here. Yes. This is exactly where it happened.
Lights up on the FEMALE CHORUS. They look like a Jerusalem alleyway.
Or it might have been that alley over there.
In the dark they all look the same.
(turns to audience)
I can't give you my real name, for obvious reasons.
Just call me Koos.
Lights up on the MALE CHORUS. They look like pieces of garbage strewn in the alleyway.
What a vulgar thing to say.
Koos means vagina in Arabic.
They drove me only part way, then they told me to walk.
Listen to this: I was wearing heels, stupidly.
They told me to wear them.
How could a man possibly know what it's like to walk in heels on wet streets of ancient stone?
The word koos penetrated Hebrew slang in the late seventies.
Maybe it had something to do with the Occupation.
Why does it always have to be about the Occupation?
Until the late seventies, we didn't know what to call our thing.
So what did you call it?
We called it…
Maybe we called it:
They were chunky black heels. Hey, it was the nineties. I was hobbling, like this. Grasping the slippery stone walls. The whole alley stunk of garbage. Can you smell it? Or it might have been that one over there. I heard a rustling sound. Something furry touched my foot.
I slipped and fell to my knees, like this. I must've sprained my ankle, because I couldn't get up. I turned to look back at the car, but they were already gone.
They weren't pimps.
They were rabbis.
Who hired a prostitute.
All in a day's work.
I see the way you look at me.
Nobody wants me now, but twenty years ago, they used to hiss at me from the alleyways ---
Koosit is an expression deriving from the word koos.
It's a synecdoche,
that connotes an entire woman through her sexual organs.
Don't get your panties in a wad.
Koosit is a compliment.
You could be a koosit too.
If you tried.
I was never beautiful. Even when I was young.
Write that down for your records.
But I was full of hope that radiated from me.
And I wanted to do good in the world. I believed in people.
You could smell it on me. Write that down. And there I was, on my knees in the garbage, in the rain, in the dark, alone. Tights torn at the knee, in the shape of a twisted heart. Ankle throbbing. The man in the car had said good luck to me before they drove off. His eyes were overcooked meat, warm and tough like my father's, whom I hadn't spoken to in many years. And so my father was somehow there with me that night in the alley, when I scraped myself off the stones, limped across the road in my chunky heels, down the winding steps, like they had instructed me, knocked on the door three times, like this--- Are you getting all this down? And I could barely see the man who opened the door. He was so full of shame he wouldn't even turn on the light. The only words he said were koos and viagra. Did I stink like the piles of garbage I had fallen into in the alley? He wouldn't even let me go freshen up in the bathroom. He was in a hurry because of the pills. I'd seen it all before.
Koos is a location.
On or in a woman's body.
Koos oozes, like this:
Oo, oo, oo.
Or however you want her to ooze.
A DISEMBODIED HISS
How many do you want.
Koos has an opening in its center.
Can you see it?
A hole, like a gate.
You can come inside it. Like a city.
You can come inside it. Like a word that you've borrowed from another language.
You can come inside it. Like a house that you've bought.
You can come inside it , like a ---
So you want to know what made that night stick out for me, from all other nights. Write this down: Before we pulled up into this alley, the man with the meaty eyes said this to me: I'm not supposed to tell you this, sweetie, but you're saving the Jewish people tonight. Just like Queen Esther. And the other man, the one who was driving said: She has no idea who Queen Esther is. And I didn't tell those men in the car that yeah, I actually know the Bible pretty well. In fact I didn't say anything the whole ride over because I was told to pretend I don't really know Hebrew. They had asked for a non-Jewish girl because it made them feel less shitty about themselves, so I was told. But I could pass for anything, more or less, in the dark, if you weren’t looking too closely. And what did it matter, Jewish, non-Jewish. All they really needed was a --
MALE AND FEMALE CHORUS
So I was told. And so that night, in the dim apartment, after I was prodded towards a small couch, a bottle of arak was thrust at me. On a normal night, I could down half a bottle myself, no joke, like mineral water, and before too long, the numbness would cloak my body, shielding it from feeling everything else, fingers, skin, meat, knives. But that night, because of what the man in the car had said about Queen Esther, no matter how much I drank, I couldn't drown out a certain image in my mind, the memory of my father and brothers every year at our family Purim feast, getting drunk like you're supposed to, after reading Esther's story in the megilla, about how she saved her people by sleeping with King Achashverosh. On Purim, you're supposed to drink ad dlo yada, until you don't know anymore, until you can't tell the difference between the good guys and the bad guys in your own story. It was all in good fun, their drunkenness, and I could feel them there with me that night, my fathers and brothers, celebrating in oblivion, singing and dancing around the couch ad dlo yada ad dlo yada ad dlo yada as the man climbed on top of me. Fingers. Skin. Meat. Knives. No matter how much I drank, I couldn't drown out their joy.
The MALE and FEMALE CHORUS begin dancing joyfully around Koos.
Look at me, I'm saving the Jewish people.
MALE AND FEMALE CHORUS
Ad dlo yada ad dlo yada ad dlo yada
Look at me.
Lights dim as the dance continues.
FEATURED IMAGE: Yifat Bezalel, Just Feel!, 2017, Pencil and acrylic on printed paper, 31.8 x 41.8 cm
Amital Stern writes theater, film and more in Jerusalem. She earned an M.A. in Comparative Literature from Hebrew University, and studied screenwriting at the Sam Spiegel School of Film and Television. Her 6-month installment on Corporeal Clamor, "MIFLEZET / Notes towards a performance," is a series of "experiments from Jerusalem, searching for meeting points between body, place and language; women, monsters and demons."
Amital's plays include: In Waiting, winner of the Fred Simmons Arts Prize; Hunger Artist, performed at the Theatronetto Festival, Jerusalem Fringe Festival, Arab-Israeli Theater and other venues; Aliza, a site specific theater production now haunting abandoned buildings in Jerusalem. Her writing has appeared in Guernica. She is currently working on her first novel.