Leonard Freed: Israel Magazine 1967–1968

Leonard Freed: Israel Magazine 1967–1968

On view September 15, 2019–January 5, 2020
Text by Susan Chevlowe, Chief Curator and Museum Director

Leonard Freed had been living in Amsterdam for a decade when war broke out between Israel and the neighboring states of Egypt, Jordan and Syria in June 1967. In response to this news, he made his way to Israel and over the next two years spent 15 months living in the country, working as a staff photographer for Israel Magazine covering the aftermath of what came to be known as the Six-Day War. In 1968, his wife, Brigitte, and young daughter, Elke Susannah, joined Freed and they settled in Tel Aviv where Brigitte at first borrowed Micha Bar-Am’s darkroom to print Freed’s negatives, as she often did throughout her husband’s career.

The first issue of Israel Magazine appeared in late 1967. Dozens of Freed’s images from 1967 and 1968, and a few from an earlier trip, his first, in 1962—mostly in black and white, but occasionally in color—appeared in all but three of the issues in the first volume. Freed’s photographs continued to be reproduced in later issues, which came out irregularly in the magazine’s early years, including the first issue of volume two in 1969. The latter was a special picture issue featuring 150 photographs, mostly by Freed and Bar-Am. In 1976 the magazine ceased publication.

Israel Magazine was conceived of in Amsterdam as a joint Israeli-American venture. In the US, the Chairman of the Philadelphia-based publisher, Israel Publishing Company, was Beryl J. Wolk, whose family owned Goodway, Inc., an advertising and marketing firm. Vice President of IPC in the US and President of its Israeli partner in Tel Aviv, Spotlight Publications, was Dutch-born Hanoch Nenner, who had been the first mayor of Eilat. The editor was Maurice Carr, a nephew of the Yiddish writer Isaac Bashevis Singer, also a contributor. In addition to covering economic, political and military matters, the magazine featured short stories, poetry, theatre, visual art and book reviews, and cartoons by Dosh.

Responding to an increased interest in Israel in the wake of the war, the magazine sought “to serve as an enduring bridge between Israel and [the] Diaspora” while being independent, eschewing propaganda and bringing to Jews and non-Jews “as vivid, as truthful an image of Israel as possible.” At the same time, the magazine sought support for the State of Israel and celebrated its diverse Jewish population, its strides in scientific research and contributions to developing countries, including its neighbors in Africa and Asia, and its efforts on behalf of its own economy. It also encouraged secular and religious tourism.

Lag B'omer edited
Lag B’omer, Israel, 1967, gelatin silver print, 14 x 9 1/4 in. (35.6 x 23.5 cm)
Nuns with umbrellas (edited 8.28.19)
Jerusalem, Israel, 1967, gelatin silver print, 6 1/2 x 9 11/16 in.
(16.5 x 24.6 cm)

Freed’s images of everyday life on the kibbutz, in Arab homes, among religious Jews, Christian communities and clergy, in refugee camps, in factories and on the streets of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv accompanied stories tied to a particular theme in each issue. With Israel having increased the area under its control by four times by the end of the war, according to the magazine, the focus of the premiere issue was logically on defense and was dedicated “to Israel’s war aim—peace.” According to Carr, the Six-Day War put Israel in a better negotiating position to achieve this end. The issue included articles by Moshe Dayan (“The Supreme Weapon”) and Brigadier General Chaim Herzog (“The New Israel”) with photographs by Freed.

Boy selling fish (edited 8.28.19)
Jerusalem, Israel, 1967, gelatin silver print, 10 x 6 1/2 in. (25.4 x 16.5 cm)

Herzog’s essay gave a strategic and economic assessment of the new territories Israel occupied and its relationship to the Arab population. As a result of the war, Israel had regained authority over the Old City, which was under Jordanian rule since 1948 and out of Jewish hands since it was conquered in 70 C.E. For the first time in 19 years Jews could now visit their holy site, the Western (or Wailing) Wall. Freed’s photograph of a young Arab boy with a serious expression sitting precariously on a wall in front of the Damascus Gate entrance to the Old City appeared opposite the opening page of Herzog’s article (above). At right a strong diagonal leads to the gate where many people have gathered along the way. Oddly, the photo was captioned, likely not by the photographer himself, “At the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem, an Arab child peddles Chinese wares,” though he appears to be selling canned fish.

Typically, Freed’s archival photographs have a city or country and date written on the back and they appear in publications with the location as the title. Freed has also included longer descriptions in publications accompanying exhibitions and in his own books. In Israel Magazine, the photograph of a Hasid surveying a ruined building (above) appeared in Herzog’s article with a caption that intentionally evoked Jewish history and religion: “The vanished frontier in Jerusalem—inspection of a miracle.” Compositionally, the image is typical for Freed who often foregrounded and monumentalized his subjects. It was also included in a group exhibition, The Concerned Photographer, that Cornell Capa organized at the Riverside Museum in New York in 1967, which featured Freed and five other photographers—Werner Bischof; Capa’s late brother, Robert; André Kertész; David Seymour; and Dan Weiner. Freed’s iconic images of African-Americans from the civil rights era, as well as others from Italy, France and Germany were represented in the exhibition. About a third Freed had taken in Israel in 1967.

In his book La danse des fidèles (Dance of the Faithful) published only in French in 1984 and dedicated to “the dead of my family murdered in the pogroms,” Freed stated that he had always wanted to write the texts for his photographs, and while they could stand on their own, he had used them “as a starting point, as a reference to an emotional experience which I was unable to capture as a photographer.” In his description in La danse des fidèles, Freed revealed some of the context in which he had photographed the Hasid, describing what else he had witnessed at that site but could not photograph: a 19-year-old Israeli soldier blown apart when clearing a mine in an area that was previously a no man’s land between Israel and Jordan, on the ”twenty-third day of the Six-Day War.”

Palestinian Woman refugee 8.28.19
Arab refugee woman on way toward Allenby Bridge to Jordan, 1967, gelatin silver print, 9 9/16 x 14 1/2 in. (22.9 x 36.8 cm)

Another image, of a Palestinian woman in traditional dress carrying her belongings on her head, also appeared in both The Concerned Photographer and Israel: The Reality (1969) (above). The latter, organized by Cornell Capa for The Jewish Museum in New York, was a broad historical exhibition with photographs dating back to the early part of the 20th century. In its accompanying publication, the image appeared with the caption “Arab Refugee Woman on Way to Allenby Bridge to Jordan/1967.” It appeared in The Concerned Photographer with the caption Israel, 1967, and with additional commentary by Freed: “All day they cross the River Jordan and the day after that and the day after that. I watched and thought of all the refugees I knew and of my wife.” Brigitte, who is not Jewish, was born in Germany and had been a refugee after World War II. It is a particularly resonant image today.

Young girl edited 8.28.19
Jerusalem, Israel, 1967, gelatin silver print, 6 3/16 x 9 7/46 in. (15.7 x 24 cm)

Freed’s photographs showed many aspects of Palestinian life, from families living in Acre to the Old City, as well as in refugee camps in Gaza. A slight variant also appeared in Herzog’s article with the caption, “Israeli soldier distributes food to Arab children in the Gaza Strip.” Another article from 1968 on the challenges facing Palestinian families traveling between the Occupied Territories and Israel reproduced a photograph captioned, “Still uncertain of herself, the bargain bride from Gaza poses on a stool in her inlaws’ house.”  A slight variant is included in the exhibition in the Jerusalem-themed second issue of volume one from 1968, another image of an Arab family at home in the Old City (above) accompanied an interview, titled “The Jewish Invasion” by Maurice Carr, with a moderate Arab, who reported that his home had been looted and who expressed regret that he had not emigrated to Jordan. The issue praised the speed at which East and West Jerusalem had been reunited under Mayor Teddy Kollek, but lamented that the hatred sown in a generation of young Arabs “will not be eliminated overnight.” While sympathetic to the plight of Palestinians, the editorial position of the magazine staunchly supported a unified Jerusalem.

Couple on motor bike (edited 8.28.19)
Tel Aviv, Israel, 1968, gelatin silver print, 11 3/8 x 7 9/16 in. (28.9 x 19.2 cm)

A spotlight on religion in another issue in 1968 focused on the conflicts between religious and secular Jews in the State and included an article by a young Adin Steinsaltz, “What is a Jew?” Freed’s photos were spread throughout the issue, including an image of a modern secular couple in the reprint of a chapter from the former French Ambassador Jean Bourdeillette’s memoir, For Israel: “Tel Aviv looks like a big seaside resort . . . peaceful streets where one breathes in sea air together with an undefinable air of provincialism, comfort, bourgeois tranquility . . .” (above).

Freed’s photographs from Israel are part of his larger humanistic project. They reflect his particular connection to Israel and to Jewish suffering, his hopes for the future, as well as his empathy for others whose experiences were different from his own. Freed’s perspective was rooted in an understanding of his own family’s struggles as Jews in the modern world and the persecution they had experienced in Europe. His words and images convey those truths, and the enormity of that burden.


About the Photographer

Leonard Freed was born in 1929 in Brooklyn, New York, to Jewish immigrant parents from Minsk, now in Belarus. From 1948–52, he studied and worked as a graphic designer, before traveling in Europe and North Africa from 1952–1954. While in Paris in 1953 he began taking photographs and discovered the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson. He acquired his first Leica, the camera he would use for the rest of his life, second-hand in Cologne. After his return to New York in 1954, he documented Hasidic Jews in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. In 1956 and 1957 he traveled and photographed in Italy, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands, including the Jewish community in post-War Amsterdam, where he had recently settled.

In 1958, Freed married Brigitte Klück, whom he had met in Rome in 1956. Their daughter, Elke Susannah Freed, was born in 1959. Around this time Freed began to exhibit his photographs, including in a group exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. In 1961 he photographed Jewish communities in Germany and made his first trip to Israel the following year. In 1963 he photographed the historic March on Washington, beginning a long term project on African Americans. While based in the Netherlands, he continued to travel in Europe, the US, and Israel, and then settled with his family in New York in 1970.

Freed became a member of the international photographers’ cooperative agency Magnum Photos in 1972. During the next several decades, until his death in 2006, his assignments brought him to countries in Europe and Africa, as well as to Israel, India, Iraq and Brazil. His work appeared in such publications as Fortune, Life, Look, The New York Times Magazine, Der Spiegel, Die Zeit, and Paris Match, among others. He also published 10  books of his photographs. Freed has exhibited widely and his photographs are in the permanent collections of the Jewish Museum, New York, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Museum of the City of New York, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, the Joods Historisch Museum, Amsterdam, the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, and the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

Checklist of the Exhibition

All photographs in the exhibition are vintage gelatin silver prints or later prints signed by the artist, unless otherwise noted. Lent by Brigitte Freed. Courtesy of the Estate of Leonard Freed. Dimensions provided are image size, height x width.

Beersheba, Israel, 1962
8 1/2 x 12 5/8 in. (21.6 x 32 cm)
(Later print, unsigned, stamp)

Ein Gedi, Israel, 1962
12 3/4 x 8 1/2 in. (32.4 x 21.6 cm)

Jerusalem, Israel (Purim), 1962
8 6/16 x 12 5/8 in. (21.6 x 32.1 cm)

Sodom, Israel (Machine Shop, Dead Sea Works), 1962
7 1/2 x 11 7/16 in. (19 x 29 cm)

Arab refugee woman on way toward Allenby Bridge to Jordan, 1967
9 9/16 x 14 1/2 in. (22.9 x 36.8 cm)

Bnei Brak, Israel (Talmudic college), 1967
9 1/4 x 14 in. (23.5 x 35.6 cm)

Israel (Hafetz Haim kibbutz wedding), 1967
7 1/4 x 10 15/16 (18.4 x 27.8 cm)

Israel (Jewish couple in desert hills), 1967
8 1/2 x 12 5/8 in. (21.6 x 32 cm)
(Vintage print, unsigned, label)

Jerusalem, Israel (Arab family in their home in the Old City), 1967
6 3/16 x 9 7/16 in. (15.7 x 24 cm)

Jerusalem, Israel (Arab fish seller, Damascus Gate), 1967
10 x 6 1/2 in. (25.4 x 16.5 cm)

Jerusalem, Israel (Christians passing through the New City on the way to the Old City), 1967
6 1/2 x 9 11/16 in (16.5 x 24.6 cm)

Jerusalem, Israel (Dome of the Rock), 1967
11 3/8 x 7 1/2 in. (28.9 x 19 cm)

Jerusalem, Israel (laying tefillin at the Wailing Wall), 1967
14 1/8 x 9 3/8 in. (35.9 x 23.8 cm)

Jerusalem, Israel (looking toward Notre Dame de France), 1967
8 1/2 x 12 5/8 in. (21.6 x 32 cm)
(Later print, unsigned, label)

Jerusalem, Israel (Pillar of Absalom), 1967
6 1/2 x 9 3/4 in (16.5 x 24.8 cm)

Jerusalem, Israel (synagogue, Mea Shearim), 1967
7 x 10 1/2 in. (17.8 x 26.7 cm)

Jerusalem, Israel (Talmud students returning from the Old City), 1967
9 11/16 x 14 1/8 in. (24.6 x 35.9 cm)
(Vintage print, unsigned, label)

Jerusalem, Israel (two older women), 1967
9 3/4 x 6 11/16 in. (24.8 x 17 cm)
(Later print, unsigned, label)

Jerusalem, Israel (Wailing Wall after the Six-Day War), 1967
9 3/8 x 14 1/4 in. (23.8 x 36.2 cm)

Lag B’Omer, Israel (Lag B’omer pilgrimage to Meron and Safed), 1967
14 x 9 1/4 (35.6 x 23.5 cm)

Lag B’omer, Israel (rabbi’s tomb, Meron), 1967
12 5/8 x 8 1/2 in. (30.5 x 21.6 cm)
(Vintage print, unsigned, stamp)

Israel (older man smoking), 1967/1968
6 1/2 x 9 3/4 in (16.5 x 24.8 cm)
(Later print, unsigned, label only)

Jerusalem, Israel (water seller), 1967/1968
9 5/8 x 6 3/8 in.
(Later print, unsigned, label)

Acre, Israel (just married Arab girl with her inlaws’ family in their home), 1968
7 x 10 9/16 in. (17.8 x 26.8 cm)

Arab teacher with his family at home in a refugee camp near Hebron, 1968
11 3/8 x 7 1/2 in. (28.9 x 19 cm)

Ashdod, Israel (truck factory), 1968
11 7/16 x 7 9/16 in. (29 x 19.2 cm)

Beit Shemesh, Israel (textile factory), 1968
7 1/2 x 11 1/4 in (19 x 28.6 cm)

Bethlehem (an Armenian priest outside the Church of the Manger), 1968
7 5/8 x 11 3/8 in. (19.4 x 28.9 cm)

Galilee, Israel (children on a kibbutz), 1968
7 3/4 x 11 5/8 in. (19.7 x 29.5 cm)

Gaza, 1968
7 x 9 5/8 in. (17.8 x 24.4 cm)

Gaza (refugee camp), 1968
7 7/8 x 12 in. (20 x 30.5 cm)

Israel (an Arab Druze at home), 1968
7 5/8 x 11 3/8 in. (19.4 x 28.9 cm)

Israel (Arab family), 1968
7 5/8 x 11 1/2 in. (19.4 x 29.2 cm)

Israel (Bet Shean Valley, kibbutz spring festival), 1968
7 9/16 x 11 5/8 in (19.2 x 29.5)

Israel (border kibbutz, graveside), 1968
11 3/8 x 7 1/2 in. (28.9 x 19 cm)

Israel (fresh water spring on the Dead Sea near Qumran), 1968
11 7/16 x 7 9/16 in. (29 x 19.2 cm)

Israel (older man with walking stick), 1968
9 3/4 x 6 3/8 in. (24.8 x 16.2 cm)
(Later print, unsigned, label)

Jerusalem, Israel (International Economic Conference), 1968
10 x 13 11/16 in. (25.4 x 34.8 cm)

Jerusalem, Israel (Torah scribes), 1968
6 15/16 x 9 3/4 in. (17.6 x 24.8 cm)
(Later print, unsigned, label)

Kibbutz Sde Boker, Israel (the former prime minister David Ben Gurion), 1968
11 3/8 x 7 5/8 in. (28.9 x 19.4 cm)

Lag B’Omer, Israel (singing and dancing for the Lag B’omer festival in Meron), 1968
11 3/8 x 7 5/8 in. (28.9 x 19.4 cm)

Lod, Israel (aircraft factory), 1968
11 7/16 x 7 9/16 in (29 x 19.2 cm)

Occupied Golan Heights (a Druze at home in his kitchen), 1968
7 1/2 x 11 3/8 in (19 x 28.9 cm)

Occupied Golan Heights (Druze girl), 1968
12 3/4 x 8 5/8 in. (32.4 x 21.9 cm)

Ramallah, Occupied Territories (class of blind Arab children with their blind teacher), 1968
7 3/4 x 11 1/2 in. (19.7 x 29.2 cm)

Shore Near El Arish, Sinai Desert (remains of a soldier), 1967
8 1/2 x 5 5/8 in. (21.6 x 14.3 cm)

Tel Aviv, Israel (bathing suit factory), 1968
9 11/16 x 6 1/2 in. (24.6 x 16.5 cm)

Tel Aviv, Israel (couple on motor scooter), 1968
11 3/8 x 7 9/16 in. (28.9 x 19.2 cm)

Tel Aviv, Israel (modern couple), 1968
7 1/2 x 11 1/2 in. (19 x 29.2 cm)
(Vintage print, unsigned, stamp)

Tel Aviv, Israel (ulpan Hebrew language school for new immigrants), 1968
11 3/8 x 7 1/2 in. (28.9 x 19 cm)

This text originally appeared in the brochure produced on the occasion of the exhibition Leonard Freed: Israel Magazine 1967–1968 on view at the Derfner Judaica Museum from September 15, 2019–January 5, 2020.

About the Hebrew Home at Riverdale

As a member of the American Alliance of Museums, the Hebrew Home at Riverdale by RiverSpring Health is committed to publicly exhibiting its art collection throughout its 32-acre campus, including the Derfner Judaica Museum and a sculpture garden overlooking the Hudson River and Palisades. The Derfner Judaica Museum + The Art Collection provides educational and cultural programming for residents of the Hebrew Home, their families and the general public from throughout New York City, its surrounding suburbs and visitors from elsewhere.  RiverSpring Health is a nonprofit, non-sectarian geriatric organization serving more than 18,000 older adults in greater New York through its resources and community service programs. Museum hours: Sunday–Thursday, 10:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m. Art Collection and grounds open daily, 10:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m.

Derfner Judaica Museum Logo JPG

Hebrew Home at Riverdale
5901 Palisade Avenue
Riverdale, New York 10471
Tel. 718.581.1596

dclaLogo_color_2This exhibition is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.