Motherly Love

A photo by Aliza Auerbach, taken in 1997 near Jericho demonstrates that a woman in a field and a woman in the upscale yoo towers can be equally accepting, functioning, responsible mothers.

Tal Niv
Tal Niv
Tal Niv
Tal Niv

Looking at a photograph can reveal something about a person. And what someone says about a photo can tell us who he is better than any analysis. This photo by Aliza Auerbach, taken in 1997 near Jericho, is part of her well known book "Mothers on Earth," a collection of her photos from all over the world. It shows a Palestinian mother in her best striped dress wiping her daughter's nose. They are sitting in an open area. The girl is wearing a flowered dress in honor of a holiday and her mother has made her a small ponytail. The mother looks young. She has full, round, soft cheeks, almost like those of her baby, whose face is contorted. What baby likes to have her nose wiped?

But when Nicole Raidman, the star of the reality TV show "Meusharot" saw this photo, it caused her to explode. It made her very angry, disturbed her, shook her up, showed her something that aroused uncontrollable opposition. "Motherhood?" she snorted in disdain when leafing through the book she received from her costars, whom she had invited in the fifth episode to partake of caviar at her home. "Motherhood? No, it's a hysterical photograph!" she said, showing them the book. "What, doesn't she look like a little terrorist who's about to blow up a bus?" Participant Inbar Shenhav got up from the table and told her that she was "very fascistic."

'Shabbat, Jordan Valley, Israel, 1997,' from the book 'Mothers in Earth.'Credit: Aliza Auerbach

Shenhav was wrong. The words were more racist than fascist. A person who looks at a baby and doesn't see a baby, but pastes a label on her forehead, empties her of babyhood and turns her into a murderer, is in effect declaring that she has no future as a human being. Her humanity is not acknowledged, and therefore one can do anything to her, even before she has grown up.

But is the reaction of Raidman, 25, who has a baby of about the same age as the one in the photo, related only to racist anxiety? Is the fact that the photo's subject is Arab what so threatens this young, ambitious woman, with her initiative and her porcelain face, a woman who makes millions, who has said that from the moment her daughter was born she hasn't spent a single entire day with her?

Raidman's reaction attests to the coherence of this photo, its brilliant simplicity, its sensitive documentary nature and the fact that it has withstood the test of time. This photo demonstrates that "motherhood" is a trait that crosses class lines. That a woman in a field and a woman in the upscale Yoo Towers in Tel Aviv can be equally accepting, functioning, responsible mothers. And they can of course be equally divorced from motherhood. Because the ability to take care of a child without overwhelming him and without leaving him isolated is also related to personality.

It's impossible to possess a precise knowledge of this reality star's internal picture of the world, which causes her to be appalled by this photo. But one can see that it shows a mother - poor, in a field, with a head covering - who is happy. And that may be what aroused an internal debate in Raidman, which resulted in a declaration that what is pictured is not a baby and not a mother. Because that is exactly what the photo captures: the love that is more important than economics.



Automatic approval of subscriber comments.

Subscribe today and save 40%

Already signed up? LOG IN


Yair Lapid.

Yair Lapid Is the Most Israeli of All

An El Al jet sits on the tarmac at John C. Munro International Airport in Hamilton, Thursday, in 2003.

El Al to Stop Flying to Toronto, Warsaw and Brussels

An anti-abortion protester holds a cross in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C.

Roe v. Wade: The Supreme Court Leaves a Barely United States

A young Zeschke during down time, while serving with the Wehrmacht in Scandinavia.

How a Spanish Beach Town Became a Haven for Nazis

Ayelet Shaked.

What's Ayelet Shaked's Next Move?

A Palestinian flag is taken down from a building by Israeli authorities after being put up by an advocacy group that promotes coexistence between Palestinians and Israelis, in Ramat Gan, Israel earlier this month

Israel-Palestine Confederation: A Response to Eric Yoffie