The night of Yom Haatzmaut in 2018 was like every other year in Israel. There were celebrations across the country. Partying of different forms, some with religious emphasis, others with more the popular cultural expressions of just having fun, listening to live musical performance, watching the fireworks up in the sky. Not Macy’s but different than another night might offer passerby.
This was the 70th anniversary of the state, and the Yom Hazikaron programs of a serious nature segued now to something different, but related. It’s seamless. Expected. I was in Jerusalem — and as much as I prefer the daytime Independence Day events , I thought I’d got out to see what was happening — stay out, but not too late. I took the camera, headed towards a bus stop.
My first picture of the evening was of the entrance to a parking garage for an apartment complex. Two small, but standout flags — the blue and white — decorated the front of the gates to the garage. Striking in the dark and matching the blue paint on the metal, the pipes, the nearby cement walls.
My first stop was the Kotel. Dancing was taking place, recitation of verse, blowing of the shofar. Large flags waved, kids were hoisted on the shoulders of some of the parents.
Heading from there, I walked the 15-20 minutes it takes to get to Safra Square, the city’s municipal area. There were a number of known Israeli singers who would be sharing their music during the evening. Some of the audience danced, but most moved gently with the song, their lips too, or talked to friends. Headband flags were seen often in the crowd. I stayed a short while and then left towards the street. Along Yaffo there were light projections on the sides of buildings and though I had noticed them before on taller buildings, now on the street I saw projected animated human characters, stick figures of sorts, in various, changing poses, and alongside historical Israeli personalities, for instance Golda Meir, their photos projected onto the walled surfaces.
Down Yafo I walked. Towards the No. 1 hangout in the city — Ben Yehudah Street. I passed the people, many younger folk enjoying the time to celebrate, hang out with old friends, new friends. Musical acts, more of a rock variety than at Safra Square, had set up shop. Pro lighting lit the stage and the crowd, flared in my lens, and I looked for a few faces – really groups of faces – that might be worthwhile to attempt to capture.
I turned up Ben Yehudah. Soon I met the fireworks. I took photos of some of the bursts and aligned an Israeli flag hat with one larger burst. That was enough of the show for me and I looked around again, spoke to one couple sitting there with their younger daughter, and continued towards King George. At the bus stop there were a lot of people waiting for their routes. They too were not feeling need to be out till the early hours, though maybe it wasn’t their choice to make, if they had parents at home to answer to. Some of the youth were sitting on the edge of the sidewalk curb. They and their phones. I photographed the arrangement from across the street, then returned to the stop to wait for my ride home.
On the bus, I found a seat. Others were standing. I photographed some of the people standing, framing one shot of the hands of two people right in front of me. Not my first time photographing on a bus (I did a whole project on the NYC subway, too, more than 15 years ago during the centennial celebration). I got off the bus and still had something in me, and noticing the overhead street lights tried something I have done before – making images of light streaks. Recipe: Leave the shutter open for some seconds and move the camera during that time. Experiment and serve warm. Forget the warm.
I started photographing in Israel in 1983, while studying for a year at Yeshivat Kerem B’Yavneh. It was my first time in Israel and I took photos – a couple hundred of them. Then, over many visits and photo assignments in Israel, I added to my collection. I’m going to rerelease my photo essay “Judah S. Harris Israel Photographs 1983-2008” in the summer. There will be an updated presentation format and accompanying text (viewable online). To receive notice, send an email to email@example.com with “Israel Photographs 1983-2008” in the subject line. Prints will also be available for purchase at special prices and I will hopefully return to offering some of my educational photo workshops (Israel, US, and possibly a couple Europe destinations).
Judah S. Harris is a photographer, filmmaker, speaker and writer. He offers highly-narrative coverage of weddings and bar/bat mitzvah events, both in Israel and the US, and produces documentaries for families wanting to preserve their multi-generational history, as well as corporate promotional video. www.judahsharris.com/folio