While Israel is defined as the Jewish state, over a fifth of its population is Arab (Muslim, Christian, Druze, and Bedouin), consisting of hundreds of thousands of families whose ancestors settled in Palestine and stayed within its borders after Israel was established in 1948. This large minority is currently experiencing a challenging identity crisis.
Wishing to examine forward-looking aspects of this Arab-Jewish coexistence, I decided to photograph Arab men and women at a crucial point in their lives – turning 18 years old. At the age of 18, Arab men and women vote as Israeli citizens, yet unlike their Jewish peers, most do not join the military.
As an Israeli Jew, I faced a unique challenge of photographing and portraying my so-called “enemy”, and in doing so hope to highlight the impact that cultural and internal conflict have had on these people, personally and collectively. As they start their mature life in Israel and face the dilemma of striking a balance between their relatively traditional culture and a modern lifestyle. Family structures and gender roles are evolving with increased availability of higher education and paying jobs for women. Living in an area of conflict, many are politically aware and express concerns about being able to study, find work, and attain financial stability in a country they feel is discriminatory.
Eighteen is an artistic point of contact serving as an invitation to get closer. A project aimed at reconciliation by understanding and respect. An inside view by one who is typically regarded as an outsider. If I, a Jewish Israeli man, can been accepted and allowed into my subjects’ personal lives – so can others.
Natan Dvir (NYC) completed his BA in Computer Science and Economics in 1993 and went on to receive his MBA in Business Administration in 1998, from Tel Aviv University in Israel. He recently completed his MFA at the School of Visual Arts (NYC) in 2010. Photo District News awarded him Best Documentary for his series The Disengagement in 2006 andin 2007, Dvir won the Israeli Photojournalism Contest Picture of the Year for Local Testimony. The Houston Center for Photography awarded him a fellowship in 2009.