The traditional gift for a 50th anniversary is gold, but Sharon Gabay figured he could do better than that. The Israeli photographer, a 15th-generation native of Jerusalem, decided to mark the 50th anniversary of his beloved city’s reunification with a 50-photograph exhibit that casts a golden glow on the eternal capital of the Jewish people.
“This exhibition is part of a journey in a world where we will tell the truth about Jerusalem,” explained Gabay, who spoke about his work at a reception at the Bender Jewish Community Center in Rockville. “Which is a beautiful, colorful, vibrant, diverse and pluralistic city.”
It’s a city that Gabay captures with a loving eye, creating charming juxtapositions that bring the modern inhabitants of this ancient place into sharp focus. Awash in color and light, Gabay’s “Jerusalem Now and Forever” features 50 photos of the only city in the world held sacred by all three major monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
“The exhibit is actually sponsored by an organization called Im Tirtzu (IMTI),” said Lisa Del Sesto, cultural arts coordinator for the Bender JCC. “They’re the largest grassroots Zionist movement in Israel, and they wanted to create an exhibit for the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem that showed the beauty of Jerusalem and how vibrant it is.”
Since the city was established as the capital of the Jewish people by King David some 3,000 years ago, Jerusalem has been the focal point for Jewish prayer and holidays, and so, visiting this exhibit is a perfect complement to this month’s Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah High Holy Days.
But, Del Sesto said, there’s more to it than that. IMTI sought to show Jerusalem as “the capital of coexistence,” a place where people of different faiths and levels of spirituality can live together and where freedom of religion is paramount. “They questioned the best way to do that and turned to an old saying, ’A picture is worth a thousand words,’” Del Sesto said.
With that, IMTI enlisted Gabay, known for his unstaged photographs that capture the true essence of the city he so deeply loves. The art photographer’s Jerusalem is populated by figures of nonchalant diversity: ultra-Orthodox families in traditional Hasidic garb share photo space with modern-but-modestly dressed Jews as well as citizens in traditional Arabic garb. It’s a brightly-colored blend of modern and the traditional, the sacred and the profane—and it shows people who, despite the diversity their clothing and style may display, are clearly fellow citizens of Jerusalem.
Del Sesto said that is the core idea the exhibit aims to illustrate. “Israel is a Jewish state, but it’s also a democratic state,” she said. “It’s a home for Jewish people, but it’s a home for all people—and different people live there and make a home there.”
“Jerusalem Now and Forever” by photographer Sharon Gabay, presented by Im Tirtzu, is on display through Oct. 9 in the Goldman Gallery at the Bender JCC of Greater Washington, 6125 Montrose Road, Rockville. Admission is free and open to the public. Call 301-881-0100 or visit www.benderjccgw.org. Learn more about the Bender JCC of Greater Washington on CultureSpotMC here.