They’re usually traipsing around the country, climbing mountains, visiting museums and experiencing Israel for the first time. Now the moment has arrived to see how Taglit-Birthright participants really view Israel, with “Through the Lens,” the organization’s first formal exhibition of photographs by Birthright alumni.
Formally opened on Wednesday at the Knesset — where the exhibit will be on display through January 26 — more than 350,000 Birthright alumni from 64 countries were eligible to enter the photography competition, and 20 photos were selected out of more than 3,500 that were submitted.
The winners were chosen by a panel of judges, and reflect the varied lenses through which Birthright travelers experience Israel over the course of their 10-day trip.
Broken down into categories, including Best in Show International, Best in Show US, as well as food and drink, logos and brands, city and landscape, black-and-white, action and bus and group, the following is a selection of what’s currently being shown in the Knesset gallery.
‘Hidden Beauty,’ by Colin Quirt, was taken while visiting Bedouin tents in the desert. ‘As we stood there quietly listening to the tour guide explain a few facts and telling us a few stories, for once on the trip… it was quiet. Most of the people on the trip come from big cities like Los Angeles and don’t get an opportunity to see the stars like they did that night. There’s so much beauty in every corner of this world, sometimes we just need to open our eyes, take a breather from our crazy lives and enjoy the beauty of mother nature and… life itself. (photo credit: Colin Quirt)
Michelle Abramson took this untitled photo in the Old City of Jerusalem: ‘This photo was taken right at the entrance of the Old City of Jerusalem. As you walk through the gate and enter the cobbled streets, a street vendor sits there with a cart of this long, shaped bread piled high.” (photo credit: Michelle Abramson)
Laurel Dunay took ‘Dawn of the New Generation’ at Masada, during her group’s 4 a.m. hike to watch the sunrise. ‘The beauty of this photo is because it all happened spontaneously. A guy in my
group started waving his Israeli flag just as we were regrouping to leave Masada and I caught the flag in the midst of waving just before the sun had fully risen. I hope people see the beauty and, more importantly, the power of Israel.’ (photo credit: Laurel Dunay)
This untitled photo was taken by Federico Kremenchuzky in the desert near the Bedouin tents. ‘I saw these men sitting, drinking their tea, and wanted to capture the authenticity of this moment.’ (photo credit: Federico Kremenchuzky)
Rachel Alexander shot this at the Ein Avdat Canyon. ‘I captured this moment in a flurry of shots. I was inspired by these girls, their headscarves, and my inability to see their faces. I hope people take away the multitude of identities that constitute Israeli society and a new appreciation for who Israel is.’ (photo credit: Rachel Alexander)
The exhibition will be on display at the Knesset through January 26, 2014.
The Best in Show winner. Derek Doneen snapped this photo, 'The Youth,' while walking through Jerusalem's Old City. 'I can't pin down what exactly inspired the photo. To me, photography is an immediate reaction. I'm more interested in capturing real, human moments than I am in setting up posed pictures. Photographs are fractions of seconds. I was so humbled walking through the Old City and thinking about the history surrounding me -- how much this particular area means so much to so many people. It's been a place of tremendous loss and horrific conflict and yet, brought immense joy to so
many others. Here are three kids playing in an ally -- oblivious to all of that. They could be Israeli or Palestinian, maybe both. It doesn't matter. There's innocence and purity that comes along with being a child that's captured in this picture.' (photo credit: Derek Doneen)