Photo IS:RAEL. A 2024-2025 Abraham Gertzman Fund Supported Program

By Jennifer Levine, Senior Director, Israel & Overseas Department

Annually, the Gertzman Committee (a sub-committee of Federation’s Israel & Overseas Allocations Committee), meets in the spring to review, discuss and recommend a dozen or so NGOs for funding. The meeting for the 2024-2025 grant cycle took place last week. One of the projects that is being recommended is Photo IS:REAL. When Ron Sollish presented it to the committee, he spoke on behalf of his group of 4 people that did the deep-dive into this project, and he said “the entire group promotes this and believes in it. This program is a great opportunity to tell the story of shared society in our region.”

What is Photo IS:RAEL?

Founded in 2012, PHOTO IS:RAEL is a public-benefit, non-profit organization with the vision of bettering society through the language of photography. Using photography as a tool for social outreach, the organization facilitates dialogue between art and diverse communities across Israel. For over a decade, PHOTO IS:RAEL has provided platforms for exhibition, research and the exploration of social issues through the power of photography – out of the belief that photography is a universal language that transcends cultural, socio-economic and gender boundaries.

Throughout the years, PHOTO IS:RAEL has successfully bridged the gap between central and peripheral populations in Israel, by providing opportunities for disadvantaged and marginalized groups from various sectors in the periphery to represent themselves, their worldviews, and speak their truth directly and unfiltered. This is made possible through Israel’s largest photography festival, where thousands of national and international spectators attend annually. Participants from diverse backgrounds such as sober addicts, people with disabilities, at-risk women and youths, minority youths, older adults, youths on the autism spectrum, among others, are given a platform to share their stories in a meaningful way, empowering them to express themselves in front of a wide audience.

The International Photography Festival is the highlight of PHOTO IS:RAEL’s year, featuring exhibitions of social outreach projects from around 180 disadvantaged localities across the country. For 10 days, works by hundreds of leading Israeli and international photographers are showcased alongside exhibitions displaying the works and giving voice to the participants of the organization’s social outreach programs. As the largest photography event in Israel, it serves as a meeting point where diverse populations can share their voices through the language of photography.

The organization’s activities span 180 different communities across the country, in collaboration with local partners. PHOTO IS:RAEL’s team consists of a core staff of 12 employees working alongside 650 volunteers, including 25 mentors. All volunteers have undergone a thorough 3-month training program provided by PHOTO IS:RAEL and donate their time to support communities across the country. In conjunction with our ongoing initiatives, PHOTO IS:RAEL is currently implementing PHOTO SALAM, a 3-year $1.35M program in partnership with USAID, aimed at fostering dialogue and understanding among Arab and Jewish youth in 4 mixed cities across Israel.

What specific project is Photo IS:RAEL asking Detroit to support?

The proposed PHOTO SALAM Central Galilee Program aims to build upon the success and methodology of PHOTO IS:RAEL’s ongoing initiatives in the past decade, particularly the PHOTO SALAM program, implemented in partnership with USAID. PHOTO SALAM Central Galilee will use photography as a language, to build bridges, and promote a broader coexistence by changing public awareness and behavior regarding diversity and shared society in the Central Galilee region of Israel.

Over a two-year period, PHOTO SALAM Central Galilee will implement a series of activities and workshops aimed at promoting intercultural dialogue and understanding in the region. The activity will provide Arab and Jewish residents, young adults, women, and youth with a collaborative platform to express themselves through photography, enabling them to share their daily reality and worldview on a grand scale. Participants will gain photography skills and the ability to make their voices heard in a strong and coherent manner, with their work showcased through various public platforms, including local exhibits within their communities, and in the renowned annual  International Photography Festival in Tel Aviv.

In the first year, there will be one facilitator training course with up to 20 trainees. Alongside, there will be 8 mixed groups, each accommodating up to 15 participants, with 5-6 designated as youth groups and 2-3 as women’s groups. In the second year, the program will expand, featuring two facilitator training courses, each with up to 20 trainees. Additionally, there will be 16 mixed groups, each accommodating up to 15 participants, maintaining the same composition as the first year, with 10-12 youth groups and 4-6 women’s groups. The total estimated number of direct beneficiaries of the program over 2 years will be:

  • 48-60 trained facilitators
  • 180-210 youths and young adults
  • 75-90 women

In collaboration with local partners, the program will focus on the Central Galilee Area including the Jezreel Valley Regional Council, the cities of Nof HaGalil and Migdal HaEmek, and Arab municipalities and villages, such as Yafia, Beit Zarzir, Ka’abia, Manshia Zbeda, and others. Through mixed identity photography workshops, Arab and Jewish participants will work together, building trust and forging strong connections around common topics of interest. The PHOTO SALAM Activity will utilize the proven PHOTO VOICE methodology to reintroduce confidence in coexistence principles and foster unity in communities.

The PHOTO SALAM Central Galilee Program aims to achieve the following goals and objectives to promote coexistence, diversity, and understanding among Arab and Jewish communities in the region.


  1. Promote Coexistence: The overarching goal of the program is to promote coexistence between Arab and Jewish communities in the Central Galilee region. By fostering dialogue, understanding, and collaboration through photography, the program seeks to build bridges and promote mutual respect and appreciation among diverse communities.


  1. Using Photography as a Universal Language: The program recognizes photography as a medium that transcends cultural and linguistic barriers. By empowering participants to express themselves freely through photography, the program aims to facilitate effective communication and amplify their voices.
  2. Breaking Hierarchies and Deliverables: Through showcasing participants’ photographs and narratives at the International Photography Festival and local exhibitions, the program seeks to break down traditional communication barriers. By providing a platform for participants to share their stories, the program aims to foster genuine dialogue and understanding among diverse communities.
  3. Empowerment and Joint Message: The program endeavors to empower participants through collaborative photography projects. By working together to curate a joint message, participants will forge connections, exercise cognitive flexibility, and express themselves authentically. This process will foster unity, mutual respect, and a shared commitment to common goals.
  4. Physical Encounters and Dialogue: Recognizing the importance of physical encounters, the program will facilitate collaborative photography projects that bring together Arab and Jewish participants. Through these interactions, participants will build trust, deepen understanding, and forge meaningful connections, fostering a sense of shared identity and purpose.
  5. Professional Team and Evaluation: The program will be overseen by a dedicated team responsible for its implementation. This team will continuously evaluate the program’s impact and progress, making adjustments as necessary to ensure its effectiveness in achieving its objectives and fostering social change.
  6. Annual International Photography Festival: Participation in the prestigious International Photography Festival will provide participants with a significant platform to showcase their work and amplify their voices. By reaching a diverse audience of tens of thousands including decision maker on the national level, the program aims to raise awareness, challenge stereotypes, and promote understanding and empathy among the broader public.
  7. Local Exhibitions: The program will organize annual local exhibitions in the Central Galilee area, providing additional opportunities for participants to share their stories and perspectives with their families, friends, and communities. These exhibitions will serve as platforms for dialogue, challenging stereotypes, and promoting coexistence at a grassroots level, thereby fostering greater understanding, empathy, and mutual respect among both Arab and Jewish residents.
  8. Connections and Partnerships: Leveraging existing connections and partnerships, the program will reach a wide range of participants from Arab and Jewish communities. By collaborating with local municipalities, civil society organizations, schools, youth movements and cultural institutions, the program will enhance its capacity to bring about social change and promote collaborative living together in the Central Galilee region.

Operational Aspects and Implementation

The PHOTO SALAM Central Galilee Program will be implemented through a series of structured activities, training courses, and workshops designed to achieve its objectives of promoting coexistence, diversity, and understanding among Arab and Jewish communities in the region. Several unique features distinguish this program from others dealing with similar issues.

Unique Features of the Program:

  • One distinctive aspect of the program is its emphasis on using photography as a universal language to facilitate dialogue and understanding, and implementing our unique PHOTO VOICE methodology. By providing participants with photography skills and platforms to share their stories, the program offers a creative and accessible means for individuals to express themselves authentically and communicate across cultural and linguistic barriers.
  • Another unique feature is the inclusion of women’s groups within the program. Recognizing the importance of gender diversity and inclusion, the program will allocate a portion of its groups specifically for women, providing them with a safe and supportive space to engage in collaborative photography projects and share their perspectives.

The sub-committee is recommending that this program be supported with a grant of $50,000 from the Abraham Gertzman Fund. The full Israel & Overseas Allocations Committee will vote on it next week.