Being able to witness the beauty of Israel with your own eyes is an incredibly special thing. To look upon the land of God and behold the majesty and splendor of the land and the people is something which is open to everyone but few ever actualize.
In the Middle Ages, people from all over the world made huge sacrifices to journey to the Holy Land, in order to see the land and step foot on its holy soil. The experience was so powerful, so life changing, that often those who undertook to make the journey changed their last name in order to signify the importance of the experience which they had gone through.
Today, with modern technology, seeing the Land of Israel is much easier. One can look online for pictures, or alternatively even book a quick trip to fly here from almost anywhere in the world. The journey is not nearly as prohibitive or challenging as it once was, but it can be just as life-altering.
For those who cannot make the journey and are looking to find a bit more of the essence of Israel than what can be provided by online media, Israel365 has come up with a solution. View the land through the eyes of someone for whom the beauty and majesty of Israel are as real now as they have ever been.
Meet Jodi Sugar. Jodi, an immigrant to Israel who is originally from Haverhill, Massachusetts, has been photographing Israel ever since she moved here. “I came to see the land”, she told Breaking Israel News, “to see it and to share it with the rest of the world. I want people to see the beauty of Israel for what it truly is.”
Jodi has been the featured photographer of the Israel365 calendar for the past three years, and why she does it is simply out of love.
“I want people all over the world to see the beauty of Israel. We are continuously inundated with photographs that show Israel in a negative light, especially this year with the war. I want people to know that Israel is a beautiful country. We aren’t just a giant desert, or an embattled war-torn country. There is a lot of beauty here and it is important that people see that,” she said.
Jodi has focused this year’s calendar on capturing a wide array of the beauty of the land, and matching it with the specific months as well as passages from the Bible. The biblical passages she says are there in order to “further connect everyone to the land.”
“Every part of the land is special to me and it is all God’s gift, and I wanted to capture that,” Jodi explained. “It is like when one has special food on the Shabbat [Sabbath] or holidays, the food just doesn’t taste the same the rest of the time. That is what Israel is. A person can take beautiful pictures in Colorado of the Grand Canyon, or at a national park, or of a volcano, but they would be lacking a beauty which is brought about by a spiritual connection to a place. That special connection can only be found here in the land of the Bible, in God’s land.”
Jodi gave an example of what she meant by how this unique specialness, the connection between God and the land, reflected itself in her photography: “The sky is so blue when one is here in Israel. It simply is a different color than it is in other places. There is a brightness that is apparent all the time. I feel that it is different, more heavenly somehow, possibly representing the color of God’s throne.” (In Jewish tradition the color of God’s throne is azure or sapphire blue.)
When asked if there were any other special meanings in the pictures Jodi picked for the calendar, she exclaimed, “Why all of them! Some of the pictures display special events such as when snow fell in Safed, it almost never snows in Safed, perhaps once every twenty years. This year we had a huge snowfall.” Other pictures Jodi said reflect the biblical or historical overtones that are imbued in every grain of sand in this country.
“Take the picture of May, the one with the camels. When I drove down highway 90 near Jericho and saw all of the camels sitting there near the road, I felt as if I had travelled back in time. Somehow I reconnected with the story of Abraham and of Joshua. I felt as if I had been transported 3,000 years in the past,” she explained. “In this very same terrain, Abraham walked, Joshua walked. The prophets lead their students to places of study and people came to the Jordan River to bathe and draw water. Nothing has changed. One can actually see it untouched. And I thought to myself, this is what the Israelites would have seen when they came to Israel.”
The month of October features a very unique picture of a pomegranate door. This particular image was used because of its symbolism to the Jewish high holidays, during which the pomegranate is a customary food. It is also the time of the conclusion of the pomegranate harvest.
“The picture was so perfect. The door, decorated in pomegranates, has a pomegranate tree right next to it. By looking at this picture one can easily connect with their roots (both spiritual as well as agricultural). It was an easy choice to make,” she said.
Jodi went on to say that each location that was photographed for the calendar also has a deep meaning as each of them connects to the Jewish people, the history of the location and the specific time of year that it is used.
The photograph for November, of the grottos around Rosh Hanikra, connect to the story of survival that the Jews had to undergo in collapsing the train tunnels that ran from Lebanon into Israel so that they would not be overrun by Arab soldiers during the fighting before the war of Independence began. Since November 29, 1947 was the date that the vote in the United Nations took place to accept the partition plan and thereby create Israel, the photo symbolizes the struggle and the beauty that is still inherent in the location seemed a particularly fitting way to symbolize the Jewish spirit of perseverance.
“When you look at the photos, don’t just look at a pretty picture. There are other calendars for that,” Jodi said. “What makes this calendar special is its ability to allow a person to imagine another dimension of time and space while viewing the photos. A dimension in which one can be present in the picture, imagining what took place in the Holy Land at that exact spot, and to connect to it through the picture itself and the calendar as a whole.”
The exclusive Israel365 calendars featuring Jodi’s photographs are available by clicking here.