AxisMundi Jerusalem

Inside Israel and the Palestinian Territories

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Heaven or Hell

March 3, 2009

To be in the right place at the right moment – this is every photojournalist’s dream. To be on the scene to record the “decisive moment” with your camera.

Most photojournalists around the world consider Israel and the Palestinian Territories as ”heaven” for great stories providing great pictures. Well they are wrong.


For a long time this place has produced some of the most memorable news photos ever but at a high cost, and not just to the millions of Israelis and Palestinians who have suffered in their daily lives through the conflict of the past two decades or so. A number of photographers and camera operators lost their lives or been badly injured while trying to convey the story and a great number of others have psychological scars from being exposed to scenes of death and destruction over long periods of time. 

Yes, Israel and the Palestinian territories are full of great images, but how easy is to find them and record them? 


Well – the ’finding’ part is not too hard. Beepers are constantly beeping, SMS messages are constantly being sent keeping the large international press corps up to date on even the most obscure goings-on.  The Israeli Government Press Office, the Palestinian Authority, NGOs, the Israeli Defence Forces, settler groups, religious groups; all have very sophisticated media operations that fill your e-mail inbox, mobile phone and beeper with a constant stream of information.

The recording part is another story. It can seem as if everything is against you and everybody is trying to make your life difficult. Photographers here are  among the most competitive in the world … and they are many. Security is a nightmare. Much of the time the authorities from both the Israeli and the Palestinian sides make things very difficult, except of course when they want you to shoot the picture/story that they want to get across. And do not forget, you are always subject to flying rocks, bullets, rockets, hate, blood and tears … definitely not easy! 


On top of that – international agencies and newspapers take this story very seriously so they tend to send their best photographers here … and thats in addition to the incredible local talent already here.  I’m lucky that two of the most talented, dedicated and sensitive photographers in the region are on my team; Ronen Zvulun, who is based in Jerusalem, and Mohammed Salem, based in Gaza, are fine examples of how – after finding the story – recording it becomes an art in itself. Click on their names above to enjoy samples of their work.


(Photo credits: (from top to bottom: REUTERS/Mohammed Salem, REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun, REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun, REUTERS/Mohammed Salem)


I’ll Start From What Yannis finished, indeed we have a group of Creative, and Professional photographers such as Ronen And Mohammed, they just knew the way how to Put Us in the story from the moment the click to the one we take a closer look for there photograph .. they are just talented and we are honored to have them.

and with taking a quotation from Nickolas Muray ” Photography, fortunately, to me has not only been a profession but also a contact between people – to understand human nature and record, if possible, the best in each individual”, I’D LIKE TO ADD THAT being a Palestinian, Israeli, or even a foreign photographer working in the region, is really a tough Mission, its A Combination with a Feelings of fear, Caution and hope.

And with isolating your character from what goes around you, It will bring an extra psychological stress, mostly affecting of the “DREAM TO WORK IN THE REGION”.

I believe that being a part of a team working in this hot area, is really a good experience for life, but the wise photographers whom thinking of how to live more and get an extra experience that might be helpful in the near or far future

Finally, A Camera without a spirit of photography, such as a magician without a spirit of magic, and for being a true photographer here, first of all, you need to have a spirit of TEAM WORK, just because of this, we find a lot of talented mates just didn’t find the way to contact with people, so they FAIL, mohammed and ronen has this spirit, and because of that they are Passing the Experience forward

Posted by Fadi Arouri | Report as abusive

Thank you Yannis for forwarding this, agree with every word you write here. Most important; you raised the issue of the psychological scars we photographers here, all carry, ;this has been ignored long enough and am glad you brought it up!

on another but close issue, invite to read on latest round of fighting – war in Gaza

Dispatches: Notes from the Field /by Jim Hollander

Posted by rina | Report as abusive

GREAT STUFF GUYS. Want me to put a link onto our website ? regards,
glenys FPA


Yes please, Glenys

Posted by Julian Rake | Report as abusive

Yannis, thank you for posting this, well written and interesting. Thanks especially for reminding photographers that aspire to come here, that there are people living their life here, behind the ‘great’ images that the location produces. As a local, I appreciate your attitude a lot. Guess I’ll see you somewhere soon, all my best

Posted by Ahikam Seri | Report as abusive

Thank you Ahikam. See you around my friend.

Posted by Yannis Behrakis | Report as abusive

Great article. Love the photos

Posted by Nu'man | Report as abusive

Meeting dead line is fine.The scars the events leave( I am not talking about bulletes flying around you alone), the witnessing of human agony in the throes of death, the heartrending wails of those dear and near who have lost their lives, the destruction of homes, the haunted look children who can not understand what is happening around them, the despair of women, who have lost their husbands and children!You guys are not only doing a job,but are exposed Man’s irresponsibilty and the Truth that Death is stalking nearby.How must it must have scarred you and affected your personal lives!May God grant you fortitude to bear all this!Find detachment while performing your job to retain your sanity.

Posted by S.V.Ramanan | Report as abusive

Primarily InterServices Intelligence.This composes of personnel who belong to one party or other.Depending on who comes to power, particular group becomes active and powerful.Also there are moderate Muslims and hard liners.This is another mix.There is another group which wants the Army to control the country.
Hardline fundamentalists have a field day by projecting themselves as Martyrs of Islam.They command the loyalty of a section of Politicians.
Politicians have time only to be corrupt and wheeling and dealing; they will take any line to bring them to power.
To this medley is Pakistan’s strategic location and its proximity to China. West and US play a part in stirring the cauldron.Any or all the elements combine with any or all of the other groups.Depending on expediency and their writ runs.
The calyst and eventually the controlling force is terrorists.They are not a separate class. Any of the groups or a combiantion of the groups, control Pakistan,aided and abetted by the terrorists.
In effect, no body, least of all Pakistanis, know who is controlling Pakistan.

Posted by S.V.Ramanan | Report as abusive

Wow this was a powerful piece. Thank you.


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