words Alexa Wang
When I first saw this image it made me stop and think. It’s entitled ‘West of the Suez Canal, October 1973′ by photojournalist Micha Bar-Am. Bar-Am, considered by many to be the father of Israeli photojournalism. The photograph was taken west of the Suez Canal, on Egyptian soil, during the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
It’s a soldier giving himself a makeshift shower. Seeing a soldier naked amongst the paraphernalia of war makes me think about war in a different way. It has a lot more impact than a more bloody and dramatic image might. We are used to seeing soldiers in battle dress looking strong and defiant. This image reminds me that each solder is in fact made from flesh and vulnerable. The fact he wants to stay clean and cling to some vestige of civilisation before he re-enters the killing fields is strangely touching and troubling.
So you might be surprised to find that this image was recently removed from an exhibition at Jerusalem’s Museum of Tolerance, due to concerns that it could offend religious visitors’ feelings. This was removed by the museum itself – a Museum of Tolerance. We live in strange times.
When Bar-Am’s wife Orna and son Barak arrived at the opening, they were shocked and furious to find that the work had been taken down from the wall. ‘The museum’s management cares less about hurting our liberal feelings than those of religious people’, said Barak.
A statement from the museum says “The Museum of Tolerance wishes to respect the feelings of all audiences and communities. The photo in question may hurt the feelings of some of the visitors and therefore it was decided at this stage that the photo will not be included in the exhibition.”
The photograph was supposed to be part of the exhibition “Documenting Israel: Visions of 75 Years” which opened on April 27th alongside a conference held by The Jerusalem Post at the museum.
The photo can now be seen at Bar Am‘s 3rd floor space, Goethestraße 2 in Berlin-Charlottenburg and could be visited by appointment. Bar-Am