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Spare Times: For Children

Posted By Administration, Friday, November 09, 2007
Updated: Tuesday, January 21, 2014

'Beyond the Wall: Kids With Cameras — Jerusalem' In Israel, Jewish and Muslim children rarely see the world through one another's eyes. But not long ago, some did — with the help of a camera's lens.

The results are at the JCC in Manhattan, where "Beyond the Wall" illustrates the efforts of Jason Eskenazi, a New York photojournalist, to teach photography to children who were neighbors but seemed hopelessly divided by religion and politics. Mr. Eskenazi, with a grant from the nonprofit group Kids With Cameras, traveled to Jerusalem in 2004 with 24 point-and-shoot cameras. By distributing leaflets in the Muslim quarter, he recruited a dozen Muslims, all 8 to 12; a Jewish center helped find an equal number of Jews the same ages. Mr. Eskenazi met with each group separately. "The goal was to make a portrait of Jerusalem," he said. But he also had a more difficult, and at first hidden, objective: someday to show each group the other's work.

The first opportunity came by accident, when a 10-year-old Muslim student saw him teaching his other class on a rooftop. "She couldn't understand why 'Mr. Jason' was talking to the Jewish kids," Mr. Eskenazi said. Forced to reveal the scope of his project, he began showing each group the other's albums. Initial responses were hostile, "but after a few minutes they'd be looking to see how the others lived," he said. And while the exhibition's 30 photos reveal contrasts — a girl reading the Koran, Jews praying at the Western Wall — many show the universal exuberance of childhood.

Ultimately Mr. Eskenazi arranged a meeting between the oldest and most accomplished students: Raneen, a Muslim, and Zvi, a Jew. Though tense and wary, they complimented each other's work. "I think they both spoke in English — 'good photo,'" Mr. Eskenazi recalled. He still hopes to have an exhibition in Jerusalem, but in the meantime "Beyond the Wall" will tour the United States. "Photography can change kids' lives, I think," he said. "It's a way for them to express themselves, regardless of language." (Through Nov. 18, Laurie M. Tisch Gallery, 334 Amsterdam Avenue, at 76th Street, 646-505-5708, Free.)


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