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These digital images are part of an effort to communicate a vision which culminated in Jerusalem two years ago. I have spent my time since then trying to express the spiritual truths I have seen in the land where men have been undergoing vision quests for thousands of years. My name, Dylan, originates from Whales where it means son of the waves. It was in Israel where I discovered the spiritual significance of this name. It was there, through loving the ocean, where I transcended from my physical roots to a spiritual identity I symbolize with my photograph of a mother and baby dolphin. Only by peeling away from the illusion of my physical roots- epitomized by my mother- was I able to become one with the dolphins of my soul. The man in between the double mirrors is homeless and considered insane, yet I am sure he is the most enlightened man I've ever met. As I photographed him on the beach in Tel Aviv that night, he performed hand movements, lost in his own world, seemingly oblivious to the fact he was being photographed. To me, his gesture, fingers pointing upwards towards the moon, reveals the focus of the visionary. He is positioned between the parallel mirrors of sunsets over the Mediterranean Sea, an image which expresses transcendence through the ocean- through nature.
I call this man a New Jew, a phrase used first by early twentieth century Israeli writers to refer to the new breed of young Jews in Palestine, who rejected the two thousand year old Jewish mentality of their parents and ancestors in Europe. The people of the book had become the people of the land. The descendants of shtettle Rabbis and intellectuals of European cities were now farmers and soldiers. Love of the Talmud, the bulk of the written Torah, was replaced with love of nature.
The next image is of two ultra-religious Jews staring at an Israeli soldier ahead. This image is framed by mirrored images of the Second Temple, the Jewish shrine burnt down by the Romans in 70 A.D., marking the beginning of the Jewish Exile. The return of the Jews to Israel in the last hundred years brought an end to this two thousand year exile from the Jewish homeland.
While many before me have spoken of the emergence of the New Jew as a sociological revolution, I see it as a spiritual one. A spiritual transition in Judaism unprecedented since the destruction of the Temple. Until 70 A.D., the religion revolved around Temple worship and Priests. In the exile, however, Judaism was redefined by the Pharisees, a rebel movement which evolved into Rabbinic Judaism. It was they who realized that in order to preserve the identity of the people in exile, temple worship would have to be replaced by synagogues and study of religious law. Two thousand years were spent intellectualizing how to swim while living in the dry land of the exile.
The New Jew represents the third phase of Judaism. Transcendence is now found through sacrifice for the community (all Israelis go to the army at 18), love of nature, and embracing the present instead of the past. The Holocaust, a turning point of destruction even more tragic than the temple burning in 70 A.D., and far more remembered, brought a virtual end to European Jewry. Today the Old Jew resides predominantly in the U.S., where the European Jewish mentality continues. Columbia, an ironic location for these images, is certainly an institution where the Old Jew is still strong. But with the assimilation and intermarriage of American Jews it becomes increasingly clear that just as Temple Judaism faded into history, so too will the Old Jew.
Ultimately, I believe, man's perception of God is a problem greater than any religion. Old and New "Jews" can also be found hiding in Christianity, Islam, and every other religion. But when all the rhetoric and dead dogma is put aside, man's vision of the infinite - God / love / truth - exists independent of organized religion, and is in fact rooted in the inherent double mirrors of our individual minds. Because of this humanity, even an ordinary view of the ocean from a quite beach can take on infinite significance.
Undoubtedly my message is still somewhat lost in the translation. . . so my effort to communicate continues.


Dylan, Son of Waves

Columbia Photography Exhibit, 1995

 

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