“Present Absentees” – World Press Photo exhibition / Local Testimony (Israel, 2019)

“Present Absentees” are Palestinians who fled or were expelled from their home in Mandatory Palestine by Jewish or Israeli forces, before and during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, but who remained within the area that became the state of Israel. They are regarded as absent by the Israeli government because they were absent from their homes on a particular day, even if they did not intend to leave them for more than a few days, and even if they left involuntarily. IDPs homes, property and lands were seized by Israel. 274,000 Arab citizens of Israel (1 out of 4) are IDP. 

“Present Absentees” socially engaged photography project depicts  Internally displaced persons (IDP’s) mostly from the village of Al-Lajoun which was destroyed in 1948. The project was created during an Artist’s Residency at Umm El Fahem Gallery, Israel and the photographs were taken in the gallery as well as in The Elderly House in the town. Local residents were invited for a photoshoot in which they were photographed on the background of historical photos of Al-Lajoun – a nearby village where they or their ancestors were born. The houses and the land of the village were confiscated by the state after 1948 and the village was destroyed shortly after. The land and a few buildings that survived the destruction belongs today to the Jewish National Fund (KKL in Hebrew) and used as a park. In 2017, KKL-JNF friend and supporter Jose Luis Mendoza, president and founder of the Catholic University of San Antonio of Murcia, Spain donated further funds to cover the area of the village with further forest trees. Other parts of the village land were given to Kibbutz Megido in which until today one of the village mosques is located. In the last decade, the original residents of El Lajun were trying to negotiate as well as start legal cases, aiming to gain back some of the lands that were taken. Others created plans that envisaged the re-building of the village.

The project was chosen to be exhibited at the World Press Photo Exhibition / Local Testimony 2019 curated by Eldad Rafaeli.

Tel Aviv, Israel. 20 Dec, 2019 – 08 Feb, 2020.

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