While visiting Paris Photo in November 2018, over afternoon tea, I asked Ralph Gibson if he had ever been to Israel. He hadn’t, but always wanted to. Having been there many times, and knowing Ralph’s body of work, it came to me that a view of this country through Ralph’s lens would capture Israel in a unique, moving, artistic and informative manner.
As usual, one’s first visit to Israel erases almost all preconceived notions about what this country is about. It is not until you see in person the beauty, history, culture, diversity and spirit of this nation – as well as its challenges – that you can begin, but only begin, to understand this unique place on earth. Ralph’s images demonstrate this exquisitely.
The diversity of Israel’s population and visitors is often a great surprise. The “Jewish State” is really home to many other faiths and attracts people from around the world to explore their links to the past. Jerusalem exists at the intersection of nearly all modern religions. There, every individual is unconditionally welcome and comfort- able at holy sites that are well protected and preserved.
The diversity of landscape and climate is another surprise – the arid Arava desert, the warm Mediterranean shores and the mountainous north could not be more different. So too is the social climate – Jerusalem becomes totally quiet on the Sabbath while Tel Aviv bustles with social engagement.Israel is regularly portrayed as a land bursting with conflicts and strife. Not surpris- ingly, the politics and social issues facing Israel are extremely complex and often maddening. But the objective here is not to offer a commentary on this subject – this has been done, if not overdone, by many others already. On the other hand, the long history of Israel is one of endless external conflict, strife and threats from every neighboring country. This has often led to all-out war and constantly affects every facet of life there.
Yet Israel and its citizens are consistently ranked as among the happiest in the world, even higher than the United States. The spirit of the people is palpably upbeat. Perhaps it is because while internal conflicts may divide them, external threats more strongly unite them.
Thus the overall narrative about Israel is that in this relatively small nation one can witness and relive the very beginnings of world history; experience the world’s most advanced institutions in science, technology and medicine - and everything in between.
That is the central theme of this work.