Three Sisters, Tel Aviv 1992
My mother, Rivka Kahana, with her two sisters, Leah and Esther, consecutive numbers on their forearms. In this order they lined up and were tattooed in Auschwitz.
Three Brothers, Tel Aviv 1992 My father Aharon Kahana with his two brothers, Moshe and Yehezkel.
Cousin Hannan with his wife Zipora, Ganey Tikva 2005
Cousin Shmuel and his wife Hanne in their yard, Copenhagen, Denmark 2004
The Grandchildren of Cousin Hannan, Kiryat Sefer, Modi'in Ilit 2005
The Grandchildren of Cousin Shmuel, Copenhagen, Denmark 2004
Uncle Moshe, Kibbutz Kfar Masaryk 2000
Yizhar, cousin Yonina's son, and his wife Ella, Ma'aleh Michmash, West Bank 2004
The Barak Family, Petach Tikva 1993 My Cousin Libi with her husband Naftali and their ten children: Yair, Asher, Hagit, Tehila, David, Netanel, Hillel, Shilo, Rachel, and Yinon
Cousin Libi and her husband Naftali 2002 Libi holding a photograph of their firstborn son, Yair, who was killed in Lebanon in 1995.
Uncle Yossi and aunt Hanna, Maoz Aviv, Tel Aviv 2006
My children Gil and Roni, Ramat Hasharon 2004
Cousin Yonina and her daughter Neta 2003
Neta, cousin Yonina's daughter, and her husband Elad, Nofei Prat, West Bank 2003
Mother and Father, Tel Aviv 1995 My parents, Aharon and Rivka, in their last picture together. The following day my father underwent surgery from which he never recovered.
Jonathan and Merav, my brother Zvika's children, Herzliya 2004
Rivka, Akiva, Bezalel, Zvi, Hillel, and Shilo, six of cousin Eta's ten children, Hebron, West Bank 2004
Cousin Yaki and his wife Tzofit, Susya, West Bank 2004
Chai and Iddo, cousin Aliza's sons, Savyon 2007
David, Aluma, and Roee, three of cousin Yonina's children, Ma'aleh Michmassh, West Bank 2004
Cousin Erela and her husband Danny, Kiryat Bialik 2003
Cousin Yonina with her husband Yitzhak, Ma'aleh Michmassh, West Bank 2004
Aunt Yafa and uncle Baruch, Bney Brak 1992
Aunt Adina and uncle Aharon, Herzliya 2004
Aunt Miriam, Kibbutz Lehavot Habashan, 2007 My aunt is standing next to the place where her husband, Ya'acov, my father's brother, was killed in 1948 while guarding the kibbutz.
Cousin Dina in her studio, Jerusalem 2007
Cousin Rivka, Kibbutz Kfar Masaryk 2003
Moria, cousin Yaki's daughter with her husband Amikam South mount Hebron, West Bank 2004
Yoav, Cousin Erela's son with his wife Shiri, Kibutz Cabri 2007
Cousin Tobi with her husband Lionel, Caesarea 2006
Raphael, cousin Atara's son, with his wife Dikla and his daughter Raya, Muslim Quarter, Jerusalem 2007
Cousin Rina with her daughters, Groningen, Netherlands 2004
Shmulik, cousin Miki's son, with his wife Daphna and their children, Michaela and Adam, Neve Tsedek, Tel Aviv 2005
Ayelet, my cousin Yaki's daughter, with her husband, Eliyahu, and their children, Tehila, Shahar, Maoz, Tal, and Avraham, Susya, West Bank 2004
Or and Amir, my brother Avi's daughters 2004
Cousin Rina with her daughters, Groningen, Netherlands 2004
Ari, cousin Shmuel's son, with his wife Hagit and their son Noam, Copenhagen, Denmark 2004
Rachel, Cousin Hannan's daughter, with her husband Yehuda and their children Nechama and Zvi, Kiryat Sefer, Modi'in Ilit 2005
Tal R, cousin Shmuel's son, in his studio, Copenhagen, Denmark 2004
Avishai, Yehuda, Zvi, Shai, and Yair, five of my cousin Yaki's children, Susya, West Bank 2004
Yasmin, Noam and Gal, cousin Dina's grandchildren, Karkur 2007
Sahar and Yiftah, two of my cousin Erela's grandchildren, Kibbutz Hazorea 2004
Cousin Benny and his wife Haya in the sukkah, Bnei Brak 2003
Cousin Benny's grandchildren in the sukkah, Bnei Brak 2003
My son Gil in the pool, Herzliya 2005
My daughter Roni, Ramat Hasharon 2004
Malki, my cousin Yaki's daughter, with her husband Oren and their children Shira and Eyal, Ganei Tal, Gaza strip 2005
Malki, cousin Yaki's daughter, with her daughter Shira, Gaza Beach 2005
Cousin Alik with his wife cousin Atara and their children Noa, Itai, Maya, and Neta, Moshav Hagor 2005
Michal and Ayala, two of my cousin Hannan's granddaughters, Kiryat Sefer 2005
Yarden and Naama, cousin Motke's daughters, Ramat Gan 2004
Yehuda, cousin Eta's son, with his wife Rinat and their children Uri, Hallel and Adi, Alonei Habashan, Golan Heights 2007
Yehonatan and Noga, two of my cousin Yonina's grandchildren, Petach Tikva 2005
Yuval and Omer, the grandchildren of my late cousin Pinchas, Reut 2007
Yaacov, Miri, Yehonatan and Shmuel, four of cousin Suzie's nine children 2002
Yehuda, Zvika, Devora and Avigail, four of cousin Suzie's nine children 2002
Shmulik, Gadi and Lior, cousin Miki's sons, 2007
Yael, my cousin Erela's daughter, with her husband Eldar and their children Hadas, Ofer and Amit, Kibbutz Cabri, 2007
Yael, cousin Nathan's daughter, with her husband, Malachi, and their firstborn son Gur Arie Yehuda, Safed 2007
My mother Rivka and my children Gil and Roni 2003
This is the story of one family. It is the entire Jewish-Israeli narrative embodied in a single family. This is my family. To the big question of Jewish-Israeli identity, the photographs of my family provide a kaleidoscope of answers.
The point of departure for the exhibition is the photograph of my mother, Rivka, and her two sisters, Leah and Esther. Consecutive serial numbers are scorched on their left arms: A-7760, A-7761, A-7762. Thus, in this order, they lined up in Auschwitz in the spring of 1944 to be tattooed. They didn't know then whether they would live to see the next day. Today all three live in Israel; they have 31 grandchildren, and two of them have 40 great grandchildren.
My mother, Rivka Kahana, nee Greenwald, emigrated from Czechoslovakia in 1947. Her parents and two of her seven siblings perished in the death camp. The survivors immigrated to Palestine. My father, Aharon Kahana, like some of his brothers, fled pre-war Europe in 1939, emigrating from Czechoslovakia to Palestine. His parents and three of his eleven siblings died in Auschwitz as well. Some of the survivors immigrated to Israel; others went to the United States of America.
Family cohesion was a sacred value to my parents and their siblings; a superior value, above all dispute over worldview, ideology, or religion. The family ties were close-knit and infused with the sense of an existential necessity. It was an affinity that stemmed from the oath which members of that generation pledged to one another – to meet after the war and set up their homes once again, close to each other. They arrived in Israel penniless, and everyone helped everyone. Those who immigrated first absorbed those who followed. At every opportunity my mother and her sisters recounted their stories to us, how they rescued one another during their stay in Auschwitz. This life-and-death connection continued to exist between them after they immigrated to Israel. We, the children, who absorbed this sense of deep kinship, spent long holidays together, during which we stayed with our cousins in Jerusalem, in Kibbutz Kfar Masaryk in the country's north, in the Orthodox city of Bnei Brak, and in the Tel Aviv northern neighborhood Maoz Aviv, and hosted to full capacity many cousins in our small Tel Aviv apartment, above the family-owned grocery, in the spirit of that same existential mission bequeathed to us by our parents.
I started photographing my mother during my studies at the School of Art,
Over the years I expanded the documentary practice to photograph my extended family as well: uncles, aunts, cousins and their offspring. Four generations.
The more I advanced in the documentary process, the better I realized that my family represents the very essence of Jewish-Israeliness. Documenting my relatives' lives sent me on long journeys the length and breadth of the country, as well as overseas. I crossed ideological and mental boundaries. I moved between Hashomer Hatzai'r leftist-Zionist kibbutzim in the country's north to Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Between the settlement of Susya in the Southern Hebron Mountains to the affluent Tel Aviv suburb of Savyon, between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, Bnei Brak and Copenhagen, Petach Tikva and Caesarea. My journey oscillated from "left" to "right," from ultra-Orthodox realms to completely Epicurean homes.
In my childhood we lived in Tel Aviv, very close to the beach. We spent long summer vacations with our cousins, playing childhood games on the warm sand. The same cousins, who in the meantime have raised a third and fourth generations, now live in settlements in northern Samaria, at the heart of Hebron, and in Judea. Not only have the ties between my cousins and me ceased to be an existential necessity, as were my parents' ties with their siblings, but a political and religious gulf now divides us, often leading to an actual rift. Geography is metonymic of that ideological chasm separating the different family factions:
Today, when we are parents ourselves, the need for extended family intimacy has become dulled. I am certain that in the next generation this tie will further lose the little left of our parents' pact ever-so-vivid during my own childhood. Is it the ideological gap that pushes us apart, eliminating any chance for common ground whatsoever? Probably.