Acclaimed photojournalist will show images from his new book covering 60 years in Israel


When photojounalist David Rubinger visits town to discuss his upcoming book of images from the last 60 years of Israel, he will speak from experience: he fought in the 1948 War of Independence, and he has photographed Israel’s history ever since.

Rubinger, whose work has been published extensively in Time and Life magazines, has provided a visual history of the State of Israel from its birth in 1948 through the present day.

His book, Israel Through My Lens, presents a first-hand look at the events and personalities that have defined a nation. Rubinger will present images from his book, and discuss his experiences at the Jewish Community Center on Thursday, Jan. 31 at 7:30 p.m., as part of an event presented by the St. Louis Jewish Book Festival, in conjunction with Kaleidoscope Israel.

The book’s co-author, Ruth Corman, will also interview Rubinger about his experiences, and the audience will be invited to ask questions afterwards.

Rubinger, who was born in Vienna in 1924, emigrated to Israel in 1939. After living on a kibbutz for two years, he returned to Europe to join to the Jewish Brigade of the British army.

In an email interview, he said his first camera was a going-away gift in 1945.

“My first camera was a little 35mm ‘Argus’ that a French girl gave me as a farewell present when she saw me off for home leave to Palestine in 1945,” Rubinger said.

“Upon returning to Europe I had already fallen in love with the gadget and decided to make photography my life’s profession. So I bought my first Leica in Germany in 1946 for one kilo of coffee and 200 cigarettes. And even though I have used many other cameras, Leica remained my first choice. It is like being a part of my body, my eyes and my fingers,” he said.

During Israel’s War of Independence, Rubinger served as a platoon commander, but he said he “didn’t have the time — nor film — to take pictures. I did a little though, but not much.”

However, he noted, “All the wars afterwards (too many of them) I used a camera instead of a gun.”

Rubinger began photographing for magazines and newspapers, and by 1954, he began his work with Time-Life.

From the viewfinder of Rubinger’s Leica, we see up-close views of each war in Israel in addition to the major historical moments in Israel’s past 60 years, as well as remarkably candid moments with Israel’s political and military leaders.

In the cover image for Rubinger’s book, Israeli paratroopers are shown at the Western Wall in Jerusalem during the Six Day War in 1967, only 20 minutes after the area was taken.

In other images, readers can see Israel’s former prime minister Golda Meir, in her kitchen. Defense minister Moshe Dayan and Chief of Staff Yitzhak Rabin are photographed resting on an airplane on day seven of the Six Day War.

Rubinger discussed his approach to building trust with his subjects.

“You build trust in journalism just as you do in other spheres of life. By being fair. Being patient, always remembering that you’ll get your best shots only after your subject has gotten used to you,” he said. “But always bear in mind, that you should report only what the public must, or has a right, to know. That distinguishes the photographer from the paparazzi.”

When asked which image he is most proud of, Rubinger said that is an impossible question to answer.

“It’s politically incorrect to ask parents which of their children they like best and because a photographer is always his own worst editor.”

In what may come as a relief to aspiring photographers and photojournalists, Rubinger said that in addition to all of the images he did capture, there have been some that slipped away.

Rubinger recalled sitting in a car opposite the Suez canal, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat was explaining to Israel’s Prime Minister Menachem Begin how his troops had crossed the canal in 1973.

“I had squeezed off over 30 shots, when I realized that the film in my Leica had failed to engage the sprockets. And there wasn’t another photographer around for miles,” Rubinger said.

Marcia Evers Levy, director of the St. Louis Jewish Book Festival said Rubinger’s talk should be a fascinating look at Israel’s history.

“It will be a living history of Israel,” she said. “He was in the land of Israel before it was Israel and he has been shooting pictures there for more than 60 years now.”

“What better way to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Israel than with someone who has lived it and can tell stories about it, and show his pictures,” Levy said.

“It’s the next best thing to being there.” Levy said.

Diane Gallant, co-chair of Kaleidoscope Israel, said the event will also tie in to the upcoming ‘Visions of Judaism’ photo contest held by Kaleidoscope Israel and the St. Louis Jewish Light.

“David Rubinger will certainly make the history books on Israel over the past 60 years come alive with his photos. Kaleidoscope Israel is proud to be a part of this program, and we are also thrilled to be launching the Jewish Light’s photo contest the same evening,” Gallant said.

“We’re hoping for a great turnout both for the event itself and for the entries in our Visions of Judaism contest,” she said.

Tickets to David Rubinger’s talk are $15 and can be purchased at the JCC, or by calling the Jewish Book Fest Hotline at 314-442-3299.

Upcoming St. Louis Jewish Book Festival author events include:

* Michael Oren, author of Power, Faith & Fantasy: America in the Middle East 1776 to the Present will speak on Tuesday, Feb. 12 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $12.

* Dr. Arthur Agatston, author of The South Beach Diet Heart Program will speak on Wednesday, Feb. 13 for a ‘Lunch and Learn Program,’ beginning at noon. Tickets are $15.

* James McBride, author of Song Yet Sung speaks on Thursday, Feb. 21, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $12.

Published Jan. 23, 2008