Photography professor and students display photos from Israel

Katherine Schaeffer

The Jewish Studies Program debuted a photo exhibit Wednesday to highlight its May 2012 study abroad trip to Israel.

The exhibit, which displays photography from Kent State photography professor David LaBelle and students, will remain on display on the second floor of University Library until the end of the Fall 2012.

The exhibit features a variety of photos, from landscapes to crowded street scenes to portraits, many of which showcased a modern country built on ancient tradition.

“When I sit here and think about these experiences, and then when I look at the photographs, I feel like they fail,” LaBelle said. “They’re not as stirring to me as my experiences.”

The 10-day trip, hosted by Chaya Kessler, director of Jewish Studies, and LaBelle, provided participants with the opportunity to earn credit hours in comparative religious thought or in an independent study in photography.

Fourteen students, faculty members and friends of the university traveled throughout Israel, visiting sites like the Dead Sea, Jerusalem, Gethsemane and archeological digs.

Chloe Makarick, senior information design major and photojournalism minor, said Israel was her second study abroad trip.

“I was on Semester at Sea in Spring 2010, so I’ve been around the world to eleven different countries on that,” Makarick said. “I’ve seen a lot of different cultures and experienced a lot of that, but even still, Israel was such a unique country and so diverse.”

LaBelle, whose trip to Israel was his first, said he found the region to be unique because of the sharp contrast between the beauty of the landscape and the apparent racial tension between Jews and the Palestinians. Unlike many destinations, Israel has a melding of cultures that gives the region an interesting depth.

“If you’re not from Israel, it’s sort of like an itch you can’t scratch. It both draws you and repels you,” LaBelle said.

Kessler, who moved to the United States from Israel, started the program when she assumed the position of director of Jewish Studies in 2010.

Kessler said that the program is not just for students looking to earn course credit — those who want to travel to Israel simply for the experience are also welcomed.

Kessler and LaBelle hope the wide variety of photos featured at the exhibit will spark students’ interest in the program. Kessler said the Department of Jewish Studies hopes to make it an annual event.

A common misconception about Israel is it is not a modern country, Kessler said. In reality, although the country is filled with ancient practices, modern technology and architecture are much more prominent there than most Americans think.

“Once you let it, it pulls you in. There’s something for everybody with an interest,” Kessler said. “Whether it’s history, archeology, religion, politics … photography, sociology … or geography — it’s a small country, but it has such variety of immigrants, of languages and of dress.”

Contact Katherine Schaeffer at [email protected].