By Gina Jacobson
It was election day in Israel and that meant that we got the day off. No school and no work, so once my husband and I had voted, we gathered the kids, hopped on a train and went into Tel Aviv to visit the Eretz Israel Museum.
We wandered around looking at the various exhibits and then we came across the David Rubinger, I Captured the Truth, 1947-1997 exhibit. Being a photography nerd, my husband was fascinated and spent a bit more time in the exhibit than the kids or me. So, we headed outside and sat on a bench to wait for him.
The photographer, David Rubinger, who won the 1997 Israel Prize in Communication and died in 2017 was one of a small selected group of photographers whose works are etched on local and international memory. His career began at the end of the enlisted “Zionist photography” period, that dominated the local photography scene until the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. His iconic picture of the three soldiers at the Western Wall is an image that is seared in the collective consciousness of Jews around the world. It is a symbol of hope and our shared connections. His photographs have recorded some of the most important and poignant moments in Israeli history.
Rubinger took his photos with analogue reflex cameras, in other words, he never saw the image at the moment it was photographed, and this exhibition was a journey into his memories.
Once the husband was done, he headed out of the exhibit and seeing us sitting together, stopped to take a photo of us.
As he took the photo, the usher for the exhibit came rushing out, ‘No, no, no, you cannot take a picture there!’ She exclaimed (in Hebrew). My husband, who has been shouted at before for taking photos where he was not allowed to, started looking for a no picture sign. ‘No’, she said again. ‘You cannot take a picture here, that wall, that wall is old and ugly!’
She then pointed across the courtyard, ‘That is where you must take a picture!’ She was pointing at a shady spot with a colourful flower bed.
‘Here. Here is a pretty wall covered in Jerusalem stone, and look at these beautiful flowers. This is where you must take a photo!’
And so, slightly bemused, we proceeded to let her direct us to sit in front of the pretty wall and pretty flowers.
‘No!’ She cried again. ‘Abba (dad), must be in the photo too!’ while taking my husband’s camera out his hands and directing him to sit with us.
She even laid her uniform jacket on the bricks for the children to sit on while shuffling us around to best show off the pretty blooms.
After a few misfires with the camera, and my 11-year-old popping up to show her what to press, she snapped a beautiful family photo of us, and the pretty Jerusalem stone wall and the pretty flowers.
We thanked her and she told us that she had planted those flowers herself and was very proud of them. We also had a conversation about where we came from, ‘Oh, you are not tourists, why did you make Aliyah? How long have you been here? How are you settling in?’
She told us that she is also an immigrant, from Uzbekistan, and that she came to Israel many years ago. She then took our map and showed us the best exhibits for the children to enjoy and wished us well before going back to the photography exhibit.
It may not have been an iconic picture that captured Israeli history, but it was a picture that recorded Israel’s present. This is a country whose diverse population is reflective of those who have been here since the birth of the state and those who for a variety of reasons have chosen to come home. Capturing the simple delights of a family outing after a democratic election, speaks about the optimism that encapsulates Israel. It also creates a lasting memory of all the country has endured and its unpredictable but hopefully bright future.
We had a wonderful day, voting, exploring the history of our country and generally relaxing, but the best part of the day for me, was a photo, with my family, in front of some gorgeous flowers!
Gina Jacobson is a mom, a wife, a dreamer. She hates mornings and loves coffee and when she’s not reading, she’s writing.