The two photos above, shot by Dotan Greenvald, are part of the Breaking the Silence exhibit, supported by your very own Jewschool, which remains open for guided tours at Harvard Hillel in Boston through through March 16th. My recent visit to the exhibit was intense, eye opening, and almost magical in its ability to cut through all of the rhetoric and illustrate humanity.
These photos, like much of the exhibit, seek to demonstrate the realities experienced by many IDF soldiers serving at checkpoints, on patrols and fulfilling other tasks in the Occupied Territories, as told through the narratives of soldiers giving tours of the photo exhibit, and testimonials available at the exhibit and online.
All of the photos were from the personal collections of soldiers who served in the territories- they took pictures as part of their daily life, and to document their experiences serving their country. According to my guide at the exhibit, Oded Naaman, a former IDF soldier affiliated with Breaking the Silence, one of the behaviors mastered quickly by soldiers serving in the territories, is the practice of pointing one’s gun ahead of one’s body before moving in any direction, in order to “show presence” and be ready for danger. Greenvald, who is the other former IDF soldier who has been giving tours of the exhibit in Boston, was interested in capturing some of the nuance of this behavior–the degree to which one ends up viewing everything through the scope of his weapon. In the first shot, he views an innocent thirteen year old boy tending pigeons on his roof in the West-Casba. Juxtaposed with this, he photographed two of his friends talking, also through the lens of his gun, with his nigh-vision scope. Oded explained the quickness and ease with which humans adapt to the many behaviors necessary for these soldiers carrying out the work of the occupation–such as pointing your gun at children and your friends.
This is one of several visual memories which stand out as ideas and feelings which can never be captured in a policy briefing paper, newspaper editorial or email. They are the very real experiences happening each to day to adolescents barely old enough to vote, in whose hands the day-to-day necessities of the occupation are held.
When we [rightfully] consider the lives of innocent Israelis killed in bombings or innocent Palestinian children killed by IDF fire, this exhibit asks us also to consider the toll that the occupation takes on those who carry out its essential functions, and the effect these experiences have on Israeli society more broadly. For those in the Boston area, I highly recommend a visit to glimpse the images and hear the stories of the occupying soldiers.