Virtual Exhibition

Exhibition logo: stylized text for "The Zionist Phantom"Dana Arieli

Curator: Rotem Rozental

April 19 - September 30, 2021 

The Schusterman Center for Israel Studies is thrilled to welcome you to our very first online exhibition! Take your time, explore the texts, delve into the images and create your own journey. 

Colorful building ruins

Quneitra, 2018

Through these images, Dana Arieli shapes a panoramic view of a landscape defined by its haunting ghosts, missing limbs, what should have been there and will never return.

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Disturbing Remains

Ruins on a hillside, in black and white

Lifta, 1983

Art spray-painted on building ruins

Lifta, 2018

Eyes painted on either side of a doorway in building ruins

Lifta, 2018

Couch in an old, abandoned, ancient-looking building

Lifta, 2018

Man and dog by a stone pool

Lifta, 2018

Man walking in a junk-filled clearing amid a small number of skinny trees trees

Wadi Salib, 1993


Bnot Ya'akov Bridge, 2018

Abandoned stone building

Quneitra, 2018

View from inside a collapsed building

Hushnia, 2019

Colorful building ruins

Quneitra, 2018

Remnants of a bombed cafe, in black and white

Café Moment, 2002

A street-side cafe, in black and white

Café Atara, 2002

Is/Was: On Phantoms and Internal Malfunctions
by Rotem Rozental

Collective Memories. Gray, cloudy skies are framed by geometric forms made of concrete: a cylinder connected to an oval by a rounded surface, another rectangle meets another rounded surface. There are markings in the rhythm of the concrete, textures, lines, change in tones. Perhaps it’s wet. Another image is occupied by concrete, flattening our point of view. Names of locations appear in Hebrew --Tze’elim, Hazerim, Halutza, Urim. Dotted lines have been carved, marking borders: a map embedded in stone. These close-ups offer partial views of Israel’s famous Monument to the Negev Brigade, designed by Dani Karavan. This site commemorates the fallen Palmach warriors who fought Arab forces in 1948, during the devastating war that followed Israel’s Declaration of Independence. Sprawling in the desert, the monument asks to underscore local history and continually recover it, eternalizing both a particular form of memory and itself as the embodiment of this memory. Although a caption tells us we are situated at the monument, it is unrecognizable in these images. At the same time, it seems eerily familiar. We remain trapped between the brutalist geometric shapes that define (or block) our view. 

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The Zionist Phantom: A Personal Lexicon
by Dana Arieli 

The French word “fantôme” means “ghost” or “visual illusion.” Dictionnaire de la langue Française by Emile Littré defines the word as “fictitious entities that engage the imagination” or an “image of the dead that usually appears in a supernatural way.” The word “phantom” is a distortion of the ancient Greek word “phantasma, meaning a ghostly apparition.”

The attempt to capture ghosts is doomed to failure, or, at the very least, is complex and elusive. Psychologists use the term “phantom pain” to depict the physical pain amputees experience arising from their body and psyche. When I visit a battlefield, like Tel Saki in the Golan Heights, I can almost feel the phantom pains of the wounded.

I don’t believe in ghosts, and do not try to document them. I am interested in the remains left behind by history. In the Zionist Phantom project, I was drawn to research trauma caused by political power, or by protest against it.

A decade ago, I began documenting relics of dictatorships and, throughout this time, continued documenting in Israel. In both of these projects, I was drawn to exploring trauma caused by political power. I document relics of wars, abandoned places, and contested sites. There are also moments in this project when the link to the Phantoms is more illusive such as in the photographs of the Hebrew University campus or factories. I feel that they are suitable here because they lost the central position they once occupied in Zionist ideology.

People with Numbers

People at a shop counter

Tel Aviv, 1988

Woman climbing onto a train

Jerusalem, 1983

Woman standing on street outside a shop, with a cane, and a shopping bag on her arm

Tel Aviv, 1988

Woman working on a sewing machine

Grandmother, 6 Kovshei Katamon St. Jerusalem, 1983

Close-up of a woman working on a sewing machine

Grandmother, 6 Kovshei Katamon St. Jerusalem, 1983

Three people crossing a street

Jerusalem, 1983

Painted sculptures of people seated on a train

Na’hariym, 2019

Labor Movement

Two men standing side by side. in front of a partially built stone wall

Jerusalem, 1983

A man and woman in aprons

Yotvata, 1983

A man packing loaves of bread into a truck

Jerusalem, 1983

A man behind a counter, next to a schwarma spit

Jerusalem, 1983

Men and boys standing on a stone-paved pedestrian area

Jerusalem, 1983

A man blows up a balloon, while other people stand nearby

Jerusalem, 1983

Green gravel and gravel hills in a factory scene

Phoenicia factory, Yeruham, 2012

Rows of mechanical-looking objects laid out in the style of a production line

Hamat factory, 2012

Man standing in front of a conveyer belt full of loaves of bread

Angel Bakery, Rishon Le’Zion, 2014

Person in protective clothing standing next to a row of vines

Zikhron Ya’akov, 2013

The Zionist Phantom
I chose this title because it often seems to me that the Zionist ideology has too rapidly became a ghost. I document the remains of Zionist ideology, its institutions and symbols, those that glorified the public sphere and have lost their former glory. I ask myself whether the many controversies that exist in Israeli society harm the symbols of Zionism. The Zionist Phantom project documents the fragmentation characterizing Israeli society.

Someone once asked me if the project expresses my sense of bereavement at how society has changed. I have no clear answer to this, but I do think about her question again and again because I am unable to discard this hypothesis.

I can’t remember any project where it took me so long to finalize the title. Usually they appear and, as time goes by, they become more and more suitable. Here, the exact opposite happened. I met people who told me they were unable to participate in the project because I identify as a researcher and a photographer of phantoms in dictatorships and, as they see it, the “Zionist Phantom” hints that Israel is an undemocratic country. Like many of the country’s citizens, I am extremely troubled.

More than once I have found myself drawing parallels between the Weimar Republic, which I have been researching, and contemporary Israel. However, this title was not selected to hint we are on a path to dictatorship, although the current situation is more complicated than ever.

Your Viewpoints
Since I believe my viewpoint emerges from the photograph, I find it easy to leave the writing to others. Here, your viewpoints encounter mine. I have already done this in the past in my Phantoms project dedicated to the remains of dictatorships.

I invited participants in workshops and visitors to my website to contribute texts about my photographs, to refer to them in any way that comes to mind. Although texts are not censored, they have been edited prior to publication.

I asked you, the writers, to refer to a photograph that you connected with. It was important for me to connect with anyone who is interested in this place, in its culture and its photographic documentation, and not necessarily only with curators, artists and scholars. This collection includes texts that express different points of views, which fascinate me. All of the texts contributed to this project are available in the Zionist Phantom website, and it will continue to grow with each contribution.

Collection Houses

Many framed portraits, in different styles, of a man with an eye patch

IDF Collection, Tel Aviv, 2017

Building fragment on a hill

Yad Mordechai, 2018

Palm trees frame a large, elegant, old building

Old Technion, 2019

A room with a desk, library stacks, cabinets, and books

Givat Ram, 2013

A taxidermy rabbit

Natural History Museum, Jerusalem, 2016

Taxidermy birds behind a glass display case, against blue walls

Natural History Museum, Jerusalem, 2016

Painted sculpture of a human head and shoulders, with a hat, seen from behind

IDF Collection, Tel Aviv, 2017

Old movie cameras on display case shelves

Mediatech, Haifa, 2019

Old typewriters on display case shelves

Mediatech, Haifa, 2019

Instead of an Archive: A Box of Photographs with a Notepad
More than 50,000 photographs were collected as part of the Zionist Phantom project. They require archival stewardship on a continuing basis: searching, classifying, cataloging, and numbering, creating typologies. I gather all of this data in numerous pads and notebooks where I search for the logic in all of this. I love to sort, because this reminds me of an early childhood memory: Granny used to ask me to sort all of the buttons that she collected in her large button box.

My viewpoint
I was born with a “lazy eye,” a reduced vision in one eye, caused by abnormal visual development. It took me years to realize that I photograph on a tilt because that’s how I see. That’s the reason that I love to use wide lenses, such as the Fisheye lens. They distort the picture, which is my preferred state. This is also the reason why it’s hard for me to focus — not only in photography. I realized this when reading Max Nordau’s book Degeneration (1892–3). Among other subjects, he wrote about the Pointillists, who broke up images into small dots because they suffered from nystagmus, rapid movement of the pupil. At first I tilted the camera and the angle became more extreme but, even now that I am aware of this, my photographs still come out tilted, no matter how much I try to make the frame straight.

I always look for the contour — the general outline of the subject being photographed. I have various points of view: “lazy,” crooked, or broken. That is why, in the majority of cases, the accepted or “institutional” perspective is broken. I prefer an overview and close-ups that disrupt the conventional viewpoint and appearance of what shows up in the frame. In places that are too orderly, I try to create disruptions. Perhaps that is the reason why I find it challenging to perform processes intended to “repair” or “beautify” reality.

My Phantom photographs began with hope mixed with cynicism. “Fotografie Macht Frei,” I told myself, convinced that this creation would at last allow me to finalize this chapter of the research. But that did not happen. A single journey following phantoms turned into dozens of journeys around the world – and throughout Israel.

When I photograph I find myself in a time capsule. It requires me to have complete focus because I try to imagine the past of the site. I invite the dead to dine, wrote Amit Gish. I search for signs of trauma.


Man walking down broken stairs

Tzrifin, 1982

Man seated in front of a stone wall, putting on socks

Hebron, 1985

Small, new buildings with ruins in the background

Hebron, 1985

Sign saying "Frontier ahead" in Hebrew, Arabic and English

Na’hariym, 2019

Industrial ruins - concrete walkways, a rusted ladder

Gesher, 2019

Bombed out building with view of trees, dirt paths and distant hills

Gesher, 2019

Distorted image of a person walking through a tunnel

Bikat Ha’Yarden, 2019

Large concrete shapes with what appears to be columns of words printed on them

The Negev Monument, 2014

Hebrew words on a rough yellow background

The Negev Monument, 2014

Tall, gray building with a long Israeli flag hanging vertically down one wall

Hakirya, Tel Aviv, 2019

The “Zionist Phantom” website comprises more than 90 entries, each of which references a different geographical location. I attempted to bring at least one image from each place to this collection of photographs but, in practice, I did not succeed and found myself choosing more and more photographs from Jerusalem. In these selections, I integrated texts that I love within the framework of the larger project.

When I create photographic series, I frequently use maps. The photograph begins in a place, in a geographical coordinate I set out to document. The location presents me with challenges: climbing a fence, kneeling, holding my breath, coping with heat or cold, fatigue, wonder, astonishment, unpleasant odors. A day of shooting takes many, many hours after which there is no chance I would ever forget the location of the site. The method of cataloging by location assists me in building the archive. At the end of the shoot, or the next day, I remind myself that it is critical to copy the photographs from the memory card to my personal archive. Finally, one or two photographs receive a red dot. Hours upon hours of searching and hoping to find one single frame to tell the story of the place.

Memory Culture
The memory culture in Israel is not homogeneous. It appears in innumerable forms. When observing the commemorative sites too numerous to count throughout Israel, one finds places dedicated to wars, terrorist attacks and car accidents. It is evident there is no singular way to outline a historical narrative. At times, narratives can collide in the same site. There is a dark tourism in Israel: memory culture that is anchored and driven by grief, which leads families to visit cemeteries. The Zionist Phantom engages with memory culture: this project is devoted to the way in which we remember or forget our past, to the way in which structures and objects unfold the historical narrative.

Youth Republic

Two men on the street facing each other

Jerusalem, 1983

View of the Dome of the Rock over buildings

Old City, 1983

Procession of hooded men followed by boys

Old City, 1983

Arial shot of children with their arms spread wide

Old City, 1983

Two boys sitting in orange-hued, sandy substance, eating popsicles

Ein Harod, 2017

Greenery, flowers, and a tree in front of a low house

Mikve Israel, 2017

Floweing tree in front of a two-story white building

Mikve Israel, 2017

A yard bordered on two sides by an open structure

Ben Shemen, 2019

Triangular concrete structures amid dirt

Eshel Hanasi, 2017

Small house on gravel, with trees

Eim Kerem, 2017

Foliage growing over a small concrete structure

Eim Kerem, 2017

Two pairs of legs in red pants and black boots

Kaduri, 2007


Close-up of a child's face, framed with copious dark curls

Near Rahat, 1985

A child peeks around fabric

Near Rahat, 1985

Man with a "lazy" eye

Near Rahat, 1985

Girl standing in the street

Pki’in, 1983

Children playing

Pki’in, 1983

Child with a hoop

Pki’in, 1983

Child holding onto a metal rail attached to a piece of furniture

Pki’in, 1983

Makeshift structure with tarps, wood boards, tires, and assorted junk

Al-Jabal, 2019

Children jumping off tires placed horizontally on the dirt

Al Jabal, 2019

Boy leaning on a broken chair, outdoors

Arab al Jahalin, 2019

Art covers the walls of three low buildings around a grassy courtyard

Arab al Jahalin, 2019

A toilet room is revealed behind pinned-back curtains or rugs

Al-Arakib, 2019