Zooming in on Religion and State

24 July 2013

An old, torn photo of young women praying at the Kotel was tacked to an ordinary wall in a Haredi section of Jerusalem’s Nachlaot neighborhood.The photo captivated Ariel Cohen, a young, religious solider, during a state and religious issues tour of Jerusalem organized by alum of a SHATIL-Bet Hillel-Be Free Israel course.Juxtaposed against the ongoing controversy surrounding women’s images in public spaces, including the defacement of ads and posters showing women, Ariel was inspired and took a photo.

Ariel’s stunning photograph recently captured first prize in the “Religion and State through the Camera’s Lens” exhibition. “The tour and the exhibit – and the use of art for social change — emphasize the connection between the struggle over religion and state issues and our everyday lives,” said Merav Livneh-Dill, SHATIL’s Religious Pluralism Project Coordinator.

The goal of the tour and exhibit was to invigorate public discourse around the “status quo” issue – the term for the political agreement reached in 1947 that decided matters of kashrut, Shabbat observance, religious education, and marriage and divorce that affect Israelis to this day.

Demand for tour participation was high and had to be limited to 60 amateur photographers.Under the guidance of world religions researcher Tomer Persiko, the group saw and discussed points and places in the capital that are affected by the status quo.Sites included restaurants struggling to get alternative kashrut certificates; the offices of the chief rabbinate where trials for agunot, or “chained women” denied a divorce form their husbands are held; billboards with no women’s images; and more.

The photography exhibit can be seen in the Frank Sinatra Plaza at the Hebrew University campus on Mt. Scopus until July 31st.