Growing up in a small rural town in Israel, Pardes Hanna, has shaped me into who I am today. My grandparents were part of the hundreds of thousand people who fled Europe prior to the Holocaust and settled the land of Israel in the 1930s. It was important to them that we were raised as Israelis. They instilled their love for the Jewish country into us and this is what has inspired me throughout my career as a photographer. My image making is a reflection of my childhood in Pardes Hanna; it is filled with my interpretations of the emotions and senses that I grew up with: from the breeze I felt while swinging on a tree swing to the sweet tangy flavor I tasted from our mango tree. These moments are what has influenced my work and continue to be a part of my photography every day.
I did not always notice that my photography was shaped by my childhood memories. During the years, I realized that I had been always carrying memories of the house I grew up in with the big luscious trees surrounding it deep down within. I develop these feelings further and organize my work into a book. Forming my book, The Orchard Trail, which is based on my raw childhood emotions, feelings, and memories. It was only while working on the book that I realized that most of my photographs are based on the innocence from my childhood.
Pardes Hanna, translated directly into “Hannah’s Orchard”, is a town that was filled with orange, avocado, and mango orchards. I remember small moments such as exchanging our avocados for the neighbor’s mangos. My images reminded me of how it felt to lay on the grass under our big tree reading a book.
Looking up to the skies and inventing stories based on the shapes of the clouds.
Hearing the rustling leaves and picking oranges with my father in the nearby orchards.
On a rainy day, I would set a chair under an umbrella and listen to the sound of the raindrops.
As kids, we would walk over to our neighbor’s house for story time or a piano lesson.
These are the memories that inspire my photographs, they remind me where I started and who I really am.
Through the process of placing images together and choosing which ones would come together to form diptychs, I learned so much about how different aspects of my life are threaded together once they’re viewed on a deeper level.
The Orchard Trail became a homage to the magical place I grew up in. My grandmother planted a tree in the backyard of my childhood home when her and my grandfather arrived in Israel in 1933 from Germany, against her family’s will. The tree became a symbol of growth, its roots planted deep into the ground to prove to anyone who thought they didn’t belong that they were staying. I learned who I am through the creation of my book, The Orchard Trail where I explored the importance of the family that I raised and the way I engrained my values into my children and future generations. After finishing The Orchard Trail, I began working on a new project called, Keeping the Flame.
It was during this project that I researched more about my Jewish heritage and looked into the past to learn about the roots that have brought me to where I am today. I focused on who I am as a modern Orthodox Jewish woman, and also researched the Jewish artist, Chagall. I then moved on to learning about the Jewish homeland, Israel, a land that has held my past along with my future, through analyzing the art of Israeli painters. Lastly, I represented my relationship with the land of Israel through my photographs of ballerinas (images 12-16 ) who are always in motion but are also stable and balanced, just like I have moved away and back to Israel several times, I always know that it will be there as a place for me to call home.
Learning about who I am in the past, present, and future has given me depth and appreciation for where I came from, the journey I am on, and for the family that I’ve raised.
In Cuba, I was exposed to a small Jewish community, one of the smallest in the world. They serve as a proof that when a community sticks together, they can overcome anything. I realized then the importance of having a community as support, and this inspired me further to tell the story of the Jewish people. They showed me that even with limited resources, the importance that the Jewish traditions play in who they are and what they believe in. Furthermore, it showed me how vital it is for us, as a nation, to pass down our traditions even when it is difficult, because if not for us, they will not exist.
In my book On Our Journey To Home, I visually describe the migration of my family from Europe to Israel in 1933. This immigration story tells of the many challenges and hardships involved with such an effort to establish life in a new land. At the same time, it expresses the sense of optimism and the determination that sustained the hopeful vision. The journey involves sacrificing closeness to friends and family, learning a new language and adapting to a different culture in order to fulfill a dream of a home and better life for generations to come.
I poetically sketch the feelings and dreams of my grandparents beginning with the time of the diaspora, their fears and insecurities involved with life in Europe at the time. They dreamt of a place for a new beginning, where they could start over and shape it however they desired, a place where they would create a just and giving society. Therefore, they settled in a small town called Pardes Hanna’, where they farmed the land, and built the town from the ground up with their own hands.It was a new and optimistic beginning, but not always a smooth one, with a lot of difficulties and sadness, Life in the new land wasn’t easy. There was much fear; of the enemies around, of illness, and that their dream would not come true.
The story continues on for five generations, to include the experience of life for my family in Israel today, which is wonderful, far beyond anything my grandparents imagined more than a hundred years ago.
It was a journey back in time while I spent part of it searching the archives of Germany, Israel and the United States, reading letters that my grandmother wrote, or articles written about her in newspapers. I learned taught everything I could from the places where they lived, and the spirit of that period, and so this book was created, by virtue of imagination and thought.
The title image is from Michal Greenboim’s last project “On Our Journey To Home”