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Re-Humanizing the Figure of the Jew, or: An Excavation of German Travel-Guides to Israel from the Sixties to Today

Published onSep 06, 2022
Re-Humanizing the Figure of the Jew, or: An Excavation of German Travel-Guides to Israel from the Sixties to Today

Since the Sixties, German tourist guides and travellogues of the state of Israel are being published. In these, close-up photographs of a myriad of faces convey the dignity of religious, 'oriental' Eastern Europeans or native Israelis, oftentimes accompanied by essays about the bodies, sentiments and other "intimate" features of the depicted. As part of "humanist photography," so Cartier-Bresson, they "highlighted the dramatic humanity of common people...man, man and his life, so short and so frail, and so threatened" (Cartier-Bresson quoted in Daniel Cohen, "Good Jews: Philosemitism in Post-Holocaust Europe, 2020, 124). After antisemitic iconography had disfigured the Jewish face, it now became an object of admiration, an exemplar human face. At the same time, close-ups of Arab faces are remarkably few and far between; Palestinian Arabs were virtually never looked in the eyes, but are pictured from behind, or as background scenery of Jewish regeneration. In my presentation I will think about the political function of these presentations and specifically, about the way that these are   transformed and reiteratred in newer, more recent depictions of tolerant, multicultural Tel Aviv.  I'll suggest that the image of Tel Aviv both brands the nation-state as liberal and modern, as well as redeems a gazing audience from its own history: in the "white city" nobody has a history.

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