Haaretz Photographer Alex Levac Wins Israel Prize

Haaretz photographer Alex Levac will receive the Israel Prize for photography, Education Minister Limor Livnat said yesterday. The prize will be awarded in an official ceremony on Independence Day.

Levac, 61, has been working as a photographer for the past 35 years and his work has been displayed in numerous exhibitions in Israel and overseas. Levac studied philosophy and psychology at Tel Aviv University and then went to Brazil for a year. During that year he decided to make photography his vocation.

He studied photography in London and then returned to Brazil, where he accompanied anthropological expeditions in the Amazon rain forest, documenting fascinating encounters with Native Americans.

In 1974, he left Brazil for Europe and worked in Paris and London as a news agency photographer and for the local media. During these years he documented the punk culture that was then flourishing. In London, he documented community work for the needy and mounted his first exhibition, entitled "Seen in Wolverton."

Levac returned to Israel and in 1983 he began working in the daily newspaper Hadashot.

Israelis associate him first and foremost with the photograph of the Bus No. 300 affair, which shook the defense establishment. On April 12, 1984, after PLO terrorists hijacked the bus, Levac photographed one of the terrorists being led away by two members of the Shin Bet security service. The photograph, which was published in Hadashot, proved that the terrorist was alive after the Shin Bet had taken over the bus and that he was beaten to death after being taken into custody.

Levac has been working as a Haaretz staff photographer since 1993. He has been showcasing a weekly photograph for the past 17 years, first in Hadashot and then in Haaretz. Entitled "The 21st Century," the photographs depict local street scenes and characters.

In 2001, the Foreign Ministry chose his work to represent Israel in an exhibit touring several countries. These days his exhibition "Our Country" is being shown in New York and Boston. Five of his photographs were recently chosen to be shown in an exhibition summing up 100 years of Israeli culture which will open in Berlin this year.

Levac has published three photography books and a new book will be released this year by Keter publishers.

The judges who chose to award Levac the prize underscored the humanitarian perspective evident in his work. "No other photographer is as involved as Alex Levac in the Israeli experience," they wrote. "He has commitment and discipline and an original and penetrating, sometimes ironic, view of Israeli reality."

Prof. Aharon Dotan of Tel Aviv University will be awarded the Israel Prize for Hebrew Linguistics. "Dotan is one of the greatest Hebrew linguists of our generation," the judges said. Dotan is a member of the Hebrew Language Academy and founded the Cymbalista Center for Jewish Heritage at Tel Aviv University.