Hally Pancer

   The Holy Land Trilogy   (1988-2001)

Beyond Borders

Photographs by Israeli and Palestinian teenagers

From 1995 through 1999, one hundred teenagers comprised of Palestinians, Israelis, religious ad secular,
Muslims, Jews and Christians congregated for a series of long term, weekly encounters with the notion of examining themselves and "the other" through photography and creative writing.

Together through the fragile reality of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the intricate social divisions within the individual societies, these teenagers were guided through the maze of confrontation, recognition and self-expression. Slide lectures exposed the students to prominent historical photographers and their visual interpretations of the world. Ongoing critiques served as an open forum for discussions about the art of photography as well as each other's daily lives and their personal and collective identities. Frequent facilitation exercises (conducted by Israeli and Palestinian psychologists)
touched upon the delicate questions of stereotypes, perception, truth and personal identity. In addition, for the duration of these courses (approximately 8 to 12 months each) students were required to keep a sort of diary, writings which were occasionally shared in class. A two day field trip to Jerusalem, a Jewish settlement in the west bank, a refugee camp in Ramallah and the holocaust museum,Yad Va Shem, allowed the participants first hand contact
with "the other side".

To say that this was strictly a co-existence project between Palestinians and Israelis would be an oversimplification.
At it's core it is something much more complex. The inclusion of religious settlers from Tkoa and Efrat, together with secular Israelis, affluent Palestinians and those from refugee camps as well as Arab Israelis, Christians and Muslims, Ethiopians and Russians created quite an unusual mosaic. In such a unique environment the focus was not exclusively on the conflict itself but also on the more camouflaged discord within these societies. Overall, the intention was not about conversion from one ideological/political camp to another but about learning how to listen without judgement, to respect and to accept that each person has a point of view and each point of view is legitimate. One doesn't need to agree with the opposing perspective in order for it to be a valid one.

In essence photography acted as a tool to facilitate a difficult collaboration and to induce social change. The results of this remarkable effort, after years of work, both intellectual and emotional, culminated in an international exhibition
which travelled for more than 10 years, conveying the students uncensored, collective and individual struggles with their identities and everyday realities as well as their aspirations for the future. They have proven that the problems of their peoples are always understood as political ones but, in fact, they have shown us, through the wonder of photography that they are human ones.

Hally Pancer - project creator/director

We are a group of teenagers, Palestinian and Israeli, Jews, Christians and Muslims, religious and secular, all coming together from the cities, villages, refugee camps and settlements.

The question is why?
Why should people from different backgrounds, in the middle of such tension even try?

When we met for the first time, we were innocent. We thought it would be so easy.
It wasn't.
Reality isn't easy. It isn't simple and it isn't innocent.
We are different.
And yet, we kept on meeting, talking, trying to relate, to understand.
Sometimes, when we couldn't agree or understand - we still had respect.
That's what it comes down to. And through that reality we learned to see the other person as "a person".
Between meetings there was an explosion in the market place 15 minutes away from us. It was so close
and so difficult because it's hard to speak of peace and hope when thereis death and smoke,
when people on both sides are blinded by hate.

And still we tried to talk, to understand and to respect.

That's what it's all about.

These pictures are us. Our lives. Our world.
A reality, a truth not found in the media, the newspapers or the TV.

The students of Beyond Borders


Download the book here (PDF)