Ser­i­al No. 3817131

Rachel Papo; Charles H. Traub, fwd.
  • Review
By – January 23, 2012

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.

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