Reva Sharon is a Contributing Editor for The Drunken Boat.
All work in Into the Land of Seeing is copyrighted to Reva Sharon. All rights reserved. No work may be copied in any medium without written permission.
In earlier issues:
Reva's collaboration with Charles Fishman's poetry Frozen Earth, Frozen Sky
Into the Land of Seeing
Jerusalem of Memory, Jerusalem of Gold, Living Jerusalem
by Reva Sharon
After reading about the forthcoming Key West Literary Seminar, Spirit of Place, January 2002, at which Rebecca Seiferle (Editor of The Drunken Boat) will be teaching, moderating a panel, and reading, I thought it would be appropriate for the Winter issue of The Drunken Boat to show a selection of the images included in my exhibition, Into the Land of Seeing. These images are strongly connected to the spirit of place, in this case, Jerusalem. For me photography is primarily about seeing, selecting and interpreting. The title of the exhibition, Into the Land of Seeing, reflects not only my approach to photography, but also this place of vision and visions, Jerusalem. A place with the Temple Mount at its center on Mt. Moriah, which some have translated as the place of seeing. Through my photographs of this place I try to find the conjunction of the spiritual and the concrete. Jerusalem is my place of personal insight.
For fourteen years I have been exploring, recording, and illuminating details that express the heart and soul of the living city, Jerusalem. Using these photographs and blending them with digital techniques, I have put together a collection that is an exhibition on view at Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem. I have selected a few of the images from this exhibition for The Drunken Boat.
Five of the images included won First Prize for Digital Photography in the international Richard Nagler Photography Competition and are included in the Judah L. Magnes Museum collection. These five winning images were the portfolio entered in the competition: Behold I have given you. . .every tree; To Build and Be Built; Remembrance, Spiritual Passageway; Jerusalem of Memory, Jerusalem of Gold, Living Jerusalem; Spirits in the Vineyard.
In the psyche and collective memory of the Jewish people, Jerusalem has for thousands of years been the center of yearnings, the heartbeat within, the direction turned to in prayer. In 1987 I fulfilled a personal lifelong dream and put down roots in Jerusalem. For thousands of years, Jerusalem has been the place of pilgrimage every Succot, Passover, and Shevuot. Seventeen times Jerusalem was destroyed and rebuilt. The image, Jerusalem of Memory, Jerusalem of Gold, Living Jerusalem contain elements of both the destruction, the rebuilding, and the pilgrimages which continue to the present day.
Jerusalem indeed glows golden in reality as in dreams, at sunrise and sunset when the sun is close to the horizon, and the rays shine on the stones of walls, and buildings, and outcroppings in the soil. Even wild wheat and barley, which can be found in undeveloped city fields, glow in that early and late light. How persistent the wild grains that became the source of bread; how persistent the memories.
The word zachor, remember, appears no less than 169 times in the Jewish Bible. The powerful ties to Jerusalem were expressed in Babylon after the people were exiled there – If I forget thee, O Jerusalem. . . In Jerusalem, as all over Israel on Holocaust Remembrance Day, and Remembrance Day for the Fallen of Israel, everything comes to silence and stillness. On one Holocaust Remembrance Day I made a photograph, included here, of a remarkable sky over Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum and memorial. What first caught my eye were cloud patterns – most unusual for a time of year when there is no rain. By focusing on the sun, the result on film was a darkening of the sky and the sun became a hole through the sky to the depths of the universe. There is a Kabalistic belief that there is a hole through to the heavens over Jerusalem.
The tree that is the subject of the image, Behold I have given you. . .every tree, is an import from America that now grows in many places in Jerusalem. Its name, obviously Native American, is Tipuana Tipu. (I recognized it immediately when I visited New Mexico.) Images of native trees in Jerusalem and information about them ( Living with Trees) can be found in the Summer 2001 issue of The Drunken Boat. The image, Sunset in the Peace Forest, seemed to me to capture the passion for peace and the coming darkness from which light would rise again. The Lemon Tree in the Snow grows in the garden next to my home. I recall well how citrus trees would suffer from frost in Florida and crops would be lost – but, despite the heavy snow that covered Jerusalem that winter, the lemons were survivors!
It is said that each of us should have a grapevine. In Jerusalem they grow everywhere. From tiny gardens in apartment blocks they climb to the balconies; in spacious gardens they trail across trellises; grapes for eating and for wine. And on Purim we are told we may indulge ourselves with the spirits of the vineyard, in celebration of the victory of life over tyranny. If you look carefully at the image of the vines, many “spirits” can be found.
We build and are built by our efforts as we build and rebuild Jerusalem. The Western Wall, the walls of the Old City, include stones from Herodian times and earlier dating to Hasmonean times. The walls of many buildings include stones that have been used and reused again and again. Jerusalem history is written and preserved in the layers of these stones even though so much was destroyed. In the courtyard of the image of Mount Zion, amidst all the stone, a cypress tree grows, a “tree of life” in the place of longing, where King David's tomb is to be found, and the location believed to be where the “Last Supper” took place, which now shares space with the remains of a mosque. The image, Hope, is a dual exposure – one of an archway with steps leading to a door, a blank wall behind it. By combining this with another image, the blank stone wall was transformed with an open gate, light emanating from beyond illuminating that area – like hope itself. I think perhaps the mystery of Jerusalem and its place in the collective memory of the Jewish people is as complex as any mystery known.
Conquerors vanquished this city, exiled its inhabitants and left remnants. Today we journey down passageways, remembering past generations. We honor them and their contributions to the world and carry them with us as we continue to rebuild Jerusalem, our culture and ourselves.
All of these images are available as limited edition, signed and numbered, archival giclee prints. For details, prices and ordering information contact Reva Sharon: firstname.lastname@example.org.
To begin viewing the images of Into the Land of Seeing. or to select a particular image: