Amnon Gutman

The Promised Land


In June 2002, the government of Israel decided to erect a physical barrier to separate Israel and the West Bank in an attempt to minimize the entry of Palestinian terrorists into the country. This has partially solved today’s terrorist infiltration problem but has caused grief and pain to innocent Palestinians in every area in which it was constructed, along the 1967 Green Line. In the southern region of Mt. Hebron, the movement of Palestinians who are coming into the country to find work has been disrupted. These people and their families are paying the price for the system of collective control that Israel has decided to implement with the erection of the Separation Barrier. Typically, a day’s work in the West Bank for a builder usually comes to about $18, while a day’s work in Israel brings them $60 – $110. Their families have come to rely on this income. Ironically, these Palestinian men, who are determined to keep providing for their families are the ones who are physically building the State of Israel. They endure terrible conditions as illegal workers, sleeping rough in river creeks, under bridges, on building sites and under highways in the Beer Sheva area, trying to avoid getting caught. If the Palestinians are apprehended, they go through a security check and when found innocent of terrorist intentions, they are sent back to their homes. And so the wearisome cycle continues. Israeli border patrol police and the army are in a constant but only partially successful race to apprehend these Palestinians. Every wall has its weak points. For a young man determined enough, it becomes a way of life- waiting for the right moment, for the prepaid accomplice driver waiting on the other side, depending on his faithful cell phone and on his buddies, all of whom are adjusting strategies to accommodate for the Separation Barrier.




Growing up in a war conflicted region, I have always been deeply aware of the possibility of loss. Photography empowers me to share this insight, demonstrating the horrible, equalizing moment of the possibility of loss, the universality of vulnerability. There is nothing clearer, nothing more precious than the preservation of the life force in the face of violence and disease. This is what I am attempting to articulate with my black and white images of the world.


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Amnon Gutman

12 thoughts on “Amnon Gutman – The Promised Land”

  1. A good, strong set of photographs, Amnon, congratulations. The quality of the photography is first rate – deals with the contrasty light of the Middle East very well. I hope that you continue with the essay; I’d like to see more of the lives of both the workers and of their families if that is possible for you to safely do so. Good storytelling.


  2. Really liked these photos, the use of light and dark,hiding or being caught in the bright light of the sun.The shining street lights also act as a distant city, a feeling of “others” in #13.Interesting slant of the ridiculousness of this game,hide and seek,the futileness of it all.i agree with Mike R great storytelling,very atmospheric,photos to ponder over.Thanks for your insight.

  3. Excellent and very timely. Very real,strong, foreboding story telling focusing upon “invented people.”

    Very timely. I wish the whole nation could see it.

  4. Wonderful. A truly tragic irony. As a Palestinian, I hope to one day see a photo essay of Palestinians working construction in Palestine. Far fetched? Perhaps. Until then, “Inshallah”.

  5. I was there in 2006 I got a barrel in to my forehead (soldier who did that started to cry…) and TRI-X torn out by soldiers at the “security barrier”. Not saying it always goes like that. I did ate chicken (fried by palestinians) with them in Betlehem (Beit Lehem?), before and after some of the palestinian freedom fighters kidnapped Gilad Shalit.

    I don’t see any connection to the “security barrier” in these photos, I mean at least they got through, just like the dude got through when I was there..

    A quote from my diary. “11 dead and 66 wounded, Islamic Jihad claimed the responsibility for the attack. The air was filled with pieces of men and falafel”.

    Ilkka Uimonen made the cycles book like 7 or 8 years ago (still, after all these years, my favourite photobook about the whole thing), photos keep popping up from there, nothing changes except that the photos keep repeating themselves, keep getting more boring.

    I’d like to take All the living things, ALL the people out of there and nuke the fucking place, turn all those worshipped places into sand…

    Ugliest place that i’ve ever been.

    Make the desert bloom like Ben Gurion said. with clouds of mushrooms…

  6. I’d like to take All the living things, ALL the people out of there and nuke the fucking place, turn all those worshipped places into sand…

    Yea, I’ve always felt that way too. Or at least turn the sacred places of the violent ultranationalist types into radioactive waste dumps.

  7. “I’d like to take All the living things, ALL the people out of there and nuke the fucking place, turn all those worshipped places into sand…”


  8. congratulations Ammon! :)))

    lovely to see this here…mostly for its freshness on a subject that resists a sense, this essay, like the Hong Kong film ‘Infernal Affairs’…and that cinematic, almost film noir approach is significantly refreshing to a story that so often gets plodden by cliches…

    would love to see a book on the theme with the same style and approach…

    tinker, tailor, soldier spy in palestine…

    big hugs

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