Mar 26, 2015  By Jewish National Fund  Category: Travel,

JNF photography mission yields beautiful Israel pastiche

Photo: Chet Stein
An ibex and its calf, spotted in Ein Gedi. 

Retired periodontist and avowed photographer Chet Stein, a JNF major-gifts chair for the DC region and a member of Makor, co-chaired the JNF photography mission earlier this month. Here, he shares impressions of the experience, as well as some of his photos.  

On the Jewish National Fund's recent Israel Through a Photographic Lens mission, nine of us from around the country had a unique opportunity to expand our photographic horizons. Our goal for the mission was to expose participants to the diverse beauty of Israel as well as the wonderful work of the JNF. If the stunning photos that resulted are any indication, I think we succeeded handily.

We began our adventure in Tel Aviv on Thursday, March 12, and we were on the move until the end of the mission on the evening of March 19. We had the chance to learn from some of Israel's finest photographers. Eyal Bartov, a director and photographer for the National Geographic Channel, acted as our guide.

Photo: Chet Stein
A man walks the streets of Jerusalem. 
We were joined by other top professionals for the different subjects we explored, and each day they guided us with an eye toward creating a unique image. Representatives of different JNF affiliates met us on our excursions, some of them with cameras in hand to really share the experience.  
Our photo shoots began in the urban settings of Tel Aviv and Jaffa with photographer Orly Danieli. The next day's theme was art, history, and landscape. Highlights were visits to the artists colony at Ein-Hod with Dan Chamitzer and the Bahai Hanging Gardens in Haifa. 

We enjoyed a leisurely Shabbat at Kibbutz HaGroshim in the north and then continued our adventure with a day of nature photography in the Hula Valley and the Gamla Nature Reserve under Eyal's tutelage. We completed this wonderful day with a sunset boat ride on the Kinneret. Monday was our day for archaeology. Our first stop was the Zippori National Park, where among the ruins of a Talmudic city we viewed the beautiful mosaic "Mona Lisa of the Galilee."

We continued on to Akko, which offered so much to see. One could spend days exploring this treasure chest of sites. Shmuel Magal, an archaeologist and videographer, did a great job cramming a great deal of fascinating information into the day.

We ran so long in Akko that we had to get up early to stop in Caesarea the next morning. 
Our next day was an urban, ethnic, and religious exploration of Jerusalem's Old City. I have been to the Old City many times, but the depth of this visit was very special. Our photographer for the day, Baruch Gian, provided us with a very unique experience and really opened up the Old City to us.
Participants in the Israel Through a Photographic Lens mission explore the country, cameras in hand. 

We were next off to the desert, where we had more opportunities for landscape and wildlife shots as we visited Masada, the Dead Sea, and Ein Gedi.

We began our last day with an emotional visit to Jerusalem's Ammunition Hill before setting out to shoot photos that fit with our last day's topic, biblical landscape. We enjoyed the beauty of Beit Guvrin National Park, and it was a great time to visit with the flowers in full bloom. We then completed our journey with a symbolic shmita-year activity at the beautiful Neot Kedumin site. (Shmita is an agricultural sabbatical year during which the land is left to lie fallow.)  

As part of the trip we had critique sessions where our daily images were evaluated by one another and the professionals and the professionals got to share some of their work as well.

We had a great group that came away, regardless of how many times they had visited Israel before, with a realization that they had participated in something very special.

Photo: Chet Stein
A multicolored meadow at Ein Hod.  

Photo: Chet Stein
Paddle-surfing in Tel Aviv.