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Listening With Our Eyes

05/07/2019 11:02:07 AM


The newest installation in Am Shalom’s David M. Grossmann Gallery is called Listening with our Eyes. It’s a photo exhibit by member Howard Tatar.

The photos are the result of an interfaith journey to Israel that Tatar went on in 2016. He stresses the word “journey,” as the experience was much more than a trip. The purpose was not just to go to all the usual places, but rather to visit those places people don’t usually see, and to talk to peace seeking organizations in Israel and the West Bank. The group met with Legal Aid clinics, medical clinics, Rabbis for Human Rights; they visited a refugee camp and ate dinner in people’s homes. They had a dual narrative from a Palestinian Muslim guide and an Israeli Jewish guide.

“Our objective was just to listen to both sides,” says Tatar. We weren’t there with an agenda other than to get in on the ground and talk to people.” 

A fine art photographer and photojournalist, another objective was to capture the faces and portraits of the children, parents and grandparents he met throughout the journey on all sides of the conflict, many of whom opened their homes and hearts to the group.

When the viewer see the photographs, there is no information given about who the people are. Except for a few that are obvious, the viewer cannot tell if the person is Muslim, or Jewish, or Druze. It’s not clear whether the person lives in Haifa, Tel Aviv or a refugee camp. 

“I didn’t want the viewer to know it for only one reason,” says Tatar. “I didn’t want any latent prejudice to rest inside of them as they viewed it. I wanted people to have a free mind to look and to think. I wanted people to use their eyes to listen to what’s going on without any persuasion or prejudice – just look at these faces.”

“When you see a man who’s wearing a kippah and he’s got a beard, your first reaction is to think ‘oh, there’s a very pious man.’ And when you see a Palestinian with a beard, you think, ‘oh, there is a terrorist.’ We were trying to break down those walls of prejudice and just listen to people. Listen to their sides of the story rather than to make snap judgments about what’s going on by virtue of what we read in the newspaper here.”

One of the outcomes of the experience for Tatar was changing where he chooses to get his Israeli news, and how he reads it.

“Words are very telling in terms of making an argument…the words one chooses to use describe what one’s political views are.”

As he writes in the exhibit description that hangs next to the photographs, “Jewish tradition teaches that despair is not an option, that despair is a cardinal sin. This exhibit is a tribute to the peace-seekers we met along the way.”

Listening with our Eyes will be displayed at the David M. Grossmann Gallery through the end of May. 

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