SDM’s Benji Lovitt about Jerusalem’s Vagina Monologue

In a city where religious differences have resulted in women’s faces being blurred in advertisements, one could be excused for being surprised to discover the word “vagina” in public. However, this past weekend, a group of women put on Jerusalem’s latest production of “The Vagina Monologues”.

Written by playwright and performer Eve Ensler, “The Vagina Monologues” is a series of monologues presented by women focused around the topic of, well, the vagina. Each one tackles the subject from a different perspective and emotion, some humorous, some serious, all meaningful as they deal with topics such as sex, rape, birth, and more.

The play though is more than just another artistic production; the proceeds benefit various women’s causes as part of a global movement called V-Day which has raised over $85 million for women’s anti-violence groups since 1998.

Running last Thursday through Saturday, proceeds from this production benefitted the Jerusalem Rape Crisis Center (JRCC) which serves women who have suffered from sexual violence while raising awareness to prevent future violence. The JRCC approached local resident and American immigrant Kate Nachman to direct the production after she successfully oversaw five previous versions in recent years. Nachman, who runs a gap year program for recent high school graduates from Canada and the United States, jumped at the opportunity, recruiting two of the program’s female participants to join the rest of the female cast, several of whom have acted in past productions as well.

The cast represented several populations with both religious and non-religious women taking part in the show, evidenced by some of the actresses wearing head coverings (in addition to the audience). With large crowds in attendance at each of the three shows, the evening opened with a representative of the center addressing the audience, talking about their important work and where the proceeds would go. The money raised from these shows will not be spent on avoidable or redundant services; rather, they will be used to keep the crisis center from closing. Served by only a small part-time staff, the center works on a shoestring budget to provide such critical services to women whose needs would not otherwise be met.

V-Day events have taken place in over 140 countries around the world through stage performances, educational workshops for both men and women, and more, fighting issues including rape, battery, incest, female genital mutilation, and sex slavery.

With an overwhelmingly positive response, the performances were a big success, continuing a Jerusalem tradition. The next “Vagina Monologues” rendition will not come soon enough!