As you walk up the stairs in St. John’s City Hall, the walls are adorned with big, colourful photographs, and it may surprise a visitor to learn they’re all from Israel.
© — Photo by Amy Fitzpatrick/Special to The Telegram
Joel Lion, consul general for Israel to Quebec and the Atlantic provinces, was in St. John’s Wednesday to unveil a photography exhibition showcasing a side of Israel that rarely makes it into the media.
There are photos of deserts, ruins and historic views of Jerusalem, but there are also views of people snorkelling and kayaking, lush green farmland and even the top of a ski slope.
As he shows the skiing picture, the consul general for Israel, Joel Lion, says people aren’t able to go to the top of Mount Hermon. It’s right on the border with Syria, and “the eyes and the ears of the state of Israel” are at the summit, keeping an eye on their troubled neighbour.
For most people, it’s impossible to think about Israel without thinking about terrorism, war and danger.
But Lion, who was in St. John’s Wednesday to unveil the photography exhibition and speak at Memorial University, said Israel is about much, much more than conflict.
“I think that if you went once to Israel, you would understand what we’re trying to say,” he says. “People are living a normal life where they are going to work, working the day and coming home. It’s pretty boring.”
Even the people who support and defend Israel, Lion laments, mostly do it because of the war.
“We’re exporting flowers to Holland, wine and perfume to France, and vodka to Russia. What a country,” he says. “I want people to love Israel because in our country, gays have all the same rights as anyone else in the world, because in our country Arab Muslim women can vote without any oppression.”
The photographs will hang in the main stairway of city hall until Nov. 3. The exhibit is sponsored by the public affairs division of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Lion says he’s aware people may see it as a public-relations campaign to draw people’s attention away from the terrorism and conflict that people normally think of. But he said he wants people to see another side, too.
“The pictures of war and conflict are the pictures you see all the time, so if you are not ready to see, also, the other side, are you really objective?” he asked. “I only want to give you another side of the picture.”