Entry Title: "Understanding Israel"
Susan R. Ressler
, United States
Category and Expertise: Photography, Professional

Entry Description:

Part memoir and part spiritual journey, Understanding Israel
asks, Who am I, and What does Israel mean to me? But for
most, my photos spark one burning question: "In what ways can
we understand Israel today?"

This book project includes 65 photographs designed to convey
the paradoxes and contradictions of the Jewish state: a
homeland for the Jewish people, and yet an occupier of
contested territory. The book shares my personal story, my
quest, my grief and my wonder, but is most of all a plea for
peace. Simultaneously, I raise global issues of grave importance.

Prompted by the not unexpected yet untimely death of my
parents, I joined a group of Jews en route to the "holy land." I
was on a quest, and the quest led me to question everything.
My parents had visited Israel, and they had a deep and abiding
love for the place and the Jewish people. I felt as if this trip was
for them; I would carry their spirit to our Jewish homeland. If
possible, I would plant a tree.

Our tour had a Zionist flavor: we visited settlements, kibbutzim,
and memorials; we talked with analysts, government officials,
and visionaries; we learned about agriculture, idealism, and
sacrifice. We saw soldiers stage a battle; we saw Jerusalem's
Western Wall. We walked; we prayed; we saw birds fly through
the Syria-African rift. And we ate the fruits of a reclaimed Negev
desert. We were sated and full. We were welcomed.

So many challenges; so many conflicts. So much progress; so
much pain. I was moved by many poignant stories. I was moved
by the people I met. I did plant a tree for my parents. And I did
learn so much on the way. The spirit of Israel has touched me,
and these photographs are my witness.

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