PHOTO EXHIBITIONS

TWJ-ISRAEL 
1/13
Each exhibition opening event is follow by a lecture showcasing the beauty and environmental changes of the Dead Sea, presented by Ilan Mizrahi and Deborah Cherki 

To host "Life at the Bottom of Earth" Exhibition and Lecture contact us.
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"LIFE AT THE BOTTOM OF EARTH"
BY ILAN MIZRAHI & DEBORAH CHERKI

It is so beautiful here! The lowest place in the world, where people get up each morning and see the most distant sky. Here, it is hot, dry and salty. Particles of bromine and potash are carried in the air, and the pace of modern life proceeds slowly on the scorching hot Road 90.


Few people live in the Jordan Valley; some have been here for many generations, and some are pioneers that dreamed of making the desert bloom. Their success of settling down in such a difficult place for the past hundred years, has created an interesting and successful integration between man and nature, which also attracted us to descend the slippery slope from holy Jerusalem to the bottom of the world. 


Ilan began photographing the area in the early ‘90s as part of his trips and work as a journalist. At the time, film photography ruled, and black and white were the colors Ilan preferred to immortalize his work with. These were the years Deborah made an aliyah from France with her family to Israel as a 17-year-old. Four years later, we met at a photography lab in Jerusalem, where Deborah worked as a printer. Her love affair with photography began there, as did the love affair between us.


In 2006, we moved to the Dead Sea region.
The decision to leave a comfortable and familiar life in the big city was not easy for us; we decided we’d give kibbutz Almog a trial year, and the years have passed since. Due to our love of the place and passion for photography, we decided to create a photographed joint project that would demonstrate the beauty of the magic in which we live. During the first years, we mainly documented daily life around the lake, and couldn’t imagine for one moment that in the years that we would live here, such drastic changes would take place on its shores.


In 2009, we were both certified as tour guides, and the knowledge acquired during our studies as well as many field trips, made a warning light go off concerning the future of our home and region. The dream of presenting nature’s beauty in romanticized pictures became a nightmare, and our photographs from past years have become a silent testimony of a world that once was, and is now destroyed.


The balance between man and nature, sustained pretty well over thousands of years – was violated, and now, we are paying the price. Man, who has prevented the waters of the Kinneret from reaching the Jordan River and the Dead Sea in the last century, meets Mother Nature’s revenge in the current century.


The Ein Gedi and Mineral Beaches were closed in the last few years after sinkholes bit into them relentlessly, influencing the economic, tourist and agricultural stability of many of the region’s residents.


Road 90, the longest road in the country, was cut off by a sinkhole in 2015, and now, the alternate route crosses the heart of Ein Gedi Nature Reserve, disturbing the peace. Beside existing sections of Road 90 in the Dead Sea area, warning signs have popped up: “Sinkholes Ahead”, as if were a sinkhole to suddenly gape open beneath your wheels, you would be able to make use of this threatening information.


The saline lake’s water level declines every year by one meter, and the brave tourist operators who work on the Dead Sea’s northern coast chase it like Don Quixote chased windmills. On the northern end of the Dead Sea, the last trickle of the Jordan River is spilled, courageously managing to reach its destination, despite all the difficulties, only to end up dying in a puddle of salt.


This incredible view was the last sight Moses saw when he stood on Mount Nevo. It is interesting to think how vastly the scenery may have changed since then, and what will remain of it in the days to come.


The Jordan River did not become the most famous river in the world due to its length or width, but thanks to the Bible and New Testament.


In this area, the Israelites entered with Joshua to conquer the land after their exodus from Egypt. The Christians believe that this is the site where Jesus was baptized by John, and these two legends attract thousands of tourists to the spot each year.


Unfortunately, the first reaction upon visitors’ faces at the Qasr el Yahud baptism site tells the bleak story of the Jordan River. The reality presented to the tourist crushes the fantasy he has had since childhood with regard to the river’s reverence. Instead, the sight before him is a shallow, muddy stream, between two military posts with Israeli soldiers on one side, and Jordanian soldiers on the other.


This is part of the longest border in Israel, which divides between two countries that share hardships, the first of which is the water problem. The peace talks in the ‘90s between Israel and Jordan and the Palestinian Authority have raised many subjects that demand attention and cooperation, while this area is considered the most peaceful of all the areas in conflict since 1967.


Still, the water problem remains an issue for both sides, and mainly prioritizes man’s needs rather than nature’s needs. Thus, the Jordan River and Dead Sea continue to be harmed every day. The southern area of the Dead Sea is completely different from its northern parts.


It has developed in the last century due to the potash industry of the Dead Sea plants, after which hotels sprung up in Ein Bokek, offering medical and spa tourism to visitors from inside the country as well as the world. Most employees come from Arad and Dimona, and some are residents of the Tamar Regional Council, such that settlement in the southern area is sparse and the desert character still reigns in the surrounding area.


Here, too, the view is breathtaking, but the mineral industry and evaporation pans are unusually distinct to the eye and soul, directly affecting the Dead Sea’s plummeting water level.
The development of tourism and industry in distant areas and use of natural drinking sources are an existential need for any young country trying to build itself, wishing to provide its citizens with a better future.


But today, with 70 years of Israeli independence and 50 years of our renewed settlement in the Jordan Valley, it is time to ask ourselves – is the great future that was promised to us in jeopardy? Also, what can we do to prevent the disaster shaping itself before our very own eyes?


The Jordan Valley in the Dead Sea region is a global nature reserve, but has unfortunately never been recognized as one by any institution in Israel and the world; in our opinion, here lies the problem, and possibly, the solution. 


Still, some optimism couldn’t hurt: In recent years, the settlements’ population has doubled itself, and quite a few families have decided to make a home in the region despite the concerns. Visionary entrepreneurs – such as Guy Erlich, who has established a farm to grow the biblical persimmon plant, which vanished over a thousand years ago, or the kibbutz investment in solar energy, and planting of date plantations along the valley while utilizing purified greywater – give us hope that there is a future for the settlements, but only if we also take care of nature.


In an age where we desalinate water from the Mediterranean Sea for drinking, and the “Israel is Drying Up” campaign is long gone, there is hope that in the near future, the Kinneret will fill up, Degania Dam will open up, and water will return to gush down the Jordan River on its way to the Dead Sea. The future of hundreds of thousands of Jordan Valley residents depends on what we do in the next decade, and only a resolute decision by the Israeli government to act on the Dead Sea issue can save it, and we must demand this of it.


We hope that, especially from here, the lowest place on Earth, a message of coexistence and peace can be sent out, between man and his fellow, and between man and place.


Ilan Mizrahi and Deborah Cherki

 

The exhibition was presented for 3 months at Masada Exhibition Hall in Israel. More than 300.000 people saw the exhibition that led eventually to the making of the photography book “Life at the Bottom of Earth”, with the hope that it will help in preserving its purity, and protect it from the destruction of modernity and exploitation of nature by man.

The exhibition was also presented at the DPJCC in Davie-Florida USA from January 12-26, 2018 and at the MBJCC in Miami Beach-Florida USA from January 30 until the end of February.

Each exhibition opening event is follow by a lecture showcasing the beauty and environmental changes of the Dead Sea, presented by Ilan Mizrahi and Deborah Cherki 

To host LIFE AT THE BOTTOM OF EARTH Exhibition and Lecture 

Please contact us.

Kibbutz Almog 

9066500 Dead Sea, ISRAEL

info.twj@gmail.com

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