Most news coverage of Israel focuses on the Palestinian conflict or complex geopolitical issues. But Israel exists independently of current events; it is also a country full of ordinary people living in an extraordinary place. It is this aspect of Israel that photographer Carole Glauber sought to capture in her exhibit of pictures from Haifa, which will be on display at the Oregon Jewish Museum in June.
Glauber and her husband, Harry, lived in Haifa for six months during 2012-13, while Harry did medical research at Rambam Hospital. “Haifa is a beautiful city; it’s a Mediterranean environment with palm trees and lovely winter weather,” says Glauber. Haifa’s mild climate makes it an ideal place to take photographs in all seasons. Inspired by her work with the Portland Grid Project, whose members document every square mile of Portland through pictures, Carole began taking photos of Haifa’s many diverse neighborhoods. “Haifa is a city of neighborhoods, like Portland,” she explains. “Wadi Nisnas is mostly Christian Arabs, while Ahuza is a mix of modern Orthodox and secular Jews. The Vizhnitz neighborhood is filled with members of the Seret-Vizhnitzer Hasidic sect.” Glauber visited more than 20 neighborhoods during her stay in Haifa, seeking each neighborhood’s unique character. “If you go to the Technion, for example, everything is modern, while the buildings in Wadi Nisnas are old Haifa style built with Jerusalem stone.”
Many of Glauber’s Israeli explorations began on a bus. “Riding the bus gives you an inside view into the city,” she explains. “Everyone takes the bus: Arabs, Druze, Haredi, kids by themselves. One time we were in Tel Aviv on the bus but didn’t know where our stop was. Four or five people chimed in to tell us when to get off the bus, and someone warned us to be careful crossing the street. Israelis are very approachable and some of the friendliest people I’ve met. We never encountered a situation where people were hostile.” Glauber was particularly drawn to the diversity of the Israeli people. “I was interested in how people get on together and people who are really making an effort to learn about each other. My day-to-day experience in Israel was that a lot of folks are just getting on with their lives. That reality doesn’t come across in the media.”
Along with her photos, Glauber wrote a blog, “Letters from Haifa,” which chronicled her experiences living in a foreign country. “The letters begin with my being new to the country, and then they transition to sharing stories of the amazing people I met. I want the blog to communicate positive aspects of Israel. There’s so much negativity out there; I wanted to show the positive things because they are everywhere.”
“Letters from Haifa” has been read by people in more than 40 countries and is also featured on The Exchange, an opinion forum of The Centre for Israel & Jewish Affairs in Canada. One facet of Israeli life that Glauber particularly admires is its blend of intellectual freedom and creative expression. “I think beauty and intellect are combined everywhere in Israel, through their wonderful art and music, and through their technological innovations. Israelis are very creative and very smart, and they’re free to express themselves. Israel is the only country in the Middle East where that’s possible. Israel is just a dot on the map, but its output and variety of people and landscapes almost make it seem supersized.”
Although Glauber blogged at great length about her encounters with Israeli people, most of her photographs showcase places; people are largely absent. “My photos are about observation, discovery and how things appear at a given moment,” Glauber says. “It’s interesting to look at a place from different points of view and different angles. The photos provide information and a sense of place and time.”
Another thing missing from Glauber’s pictures is any documentation of conflict. Glauber makes no apology for this. “My photos are about my experience; they’re not about politics or objectifying people. They’re about Israel as a place and an experience. You have to have an idea in mind to look at something in a different way.”