Photography exhibit highlights Israel through students eyes

If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so too is Israel.

So suggests a photography exhibit that will display dozens of pictures taken by students at Bay Area Jewish day schools during school trips to Israel.

A stack of pita at the market in Tel Aviv. photo/ari goldstein

Pita bread. Sign posts. The Tel Aviv skyline. The Kotel. The exhibit “Israel in Our Lives, Israel Through Our Eyes” will be on the Stone Stage at Yerba Buena Gardens.

“We wanted to share young people’s experience with the community and illustrate how they perceive Israel,” said Michal Morris Kamil, who helped coordinate the photography display. “We gave them the task to look for things that spoke to them and expressed ‘their Israel.’ ”

Noah Goldstein, a junior at San Francisco’s Jewish Community High School of the Bay, took hundreds of shots when he went to Israel in February. The one that had the most meaning to him — and the one that he submitted to display at Israel in the Gardens — is an iconic scene.

“In the middle of a series of gigantic rainstorms, when everything was soaking wet, we visited the Kotel during a brief lapse in the rain,” he recalled. “It was relatively quiet and there were only a few people at the Wall. It was an interesting mix — most of the guys in the picture are secular, and there’s one Orthodox guy. I thought it portrayed an experience unique to Israel, and I wanted to share that.”

Kamil is excited about the range of images that are part of the exhibit.

A camel’s face after a ride through the Negev. photo/ari goldstein

“Through these pictures, we’re capturing the engagement young people have with Israel,” Kamil said.

Establishing a young person’s engagement with Israel is no easy task today, said Kamil, who directs BASIS, or Bay Area Schools Israel Synergy, an Israel engagement initiative run by the S.F.-based Bureau of Jewish Education and funded by the Jim Joseph Foundation.

BASIS was created to address this challenge. Twelve day schools, including both Bay Area Jewish high schools — JCHS in San Francisco and Kehillah in Palo Alto — participate in the program, which aims to weave Israel into the curriculum at every grade level and in every subject.

“Our approach is tailored to each school and their vision for what they want [their graduates] to feel about and relate to Israel,” Kamil said. “The whole function of BASIS is to identify the ways in which educators can make Israel come to life.”

BASIS’ unofficial slogan is “shivim panim,” or “70 faces of Israel.” In other words, Kamil explained, “There are many different ways to engage with Israel because it’s such a diverse and rich society.”

And thanks to Bay Area Jewish day school students, visitors to Israel in the Gardens will get a glimpse of the many faces of Israeli life.

Stacey Palevsky

Stacey Palevsky is a former J. staff writer.