Images convey a world of meaning in this photographic essay by Rachel Papo. The photographs are all of young Israeli women during their weeks of basic training after having been drafted into the IDF. Some have just left home for the first time. All are confronting issues of life, death, morality, national existence, and personal identity. Fear is shown here, but so is resolution and strength. Mainly, we see ever-present and inescapable boredom, frustration, boredom, doubt, boredom, grubbiness, and more boredom. In spite of all the boredom, these pictures are anything but boring. The faces and postures of these young soldiers as well as their surroundings speak eloquently and their conflicting emotions come through loud and clear. Some of the photographs are accompanied by a line or two of text written by the subjects themselves. The comments enhance the photographs and help to capture the moment. The contradictions are telling; these women are young but world-weary, naïve but worldly, determined to get through this but exhausted by the process, together in a large group but each one alone. The camera shows us daughters, friends, lovers; they are heart-wrenchingly human and each, in her way, oh-so-beautiful. Papo leaves us at the end of the book with several paragraphs in which she shares her emotions and recollections about her own days as a young recruit. Reading her words, then returning to the photographs, it becomes clear that these powerful and personal images could have been taken only by one who has been there herself. Taken all together, this book is a piece of art which provokes thought, discussion, and gentle but firm searching of the soul.
Michal Hoschander Malen is the editor of Jewish Book Council’s young adult and children’s book reviews. A former librarian, she has lectured on topics relating to literacy, run book clubs, and loves to read aloud to her grandchildren.