‘The Photographs which are left behind” Veteran Israeli photographer David Rubinger, who captured the country’s turbulent wars and proud people with an unfailing sense of composition and harmony, has died at the age 92.
His death was announced on Thursday by his children.
Born in Vienna in 1924 and immigrated to Palestine in 1939. David Rubinger discovered photography while serving in the British army’s Jewish Brigade in the second world war. He was awarded Israel’s highest honour, the Israel Prize, in 1997.
David’s photo of Israeli paratroopers at the Western Wall holy site became one of the defining images of 1967, six-day war. Clicked with an unflinching eye for poignant, even horrifying detail, his images of Israel showed the chaos and humanity behind the headlines.
A photojournalist for Time-Life magazine, Rubinger’s portraits span the history of Israel, straight from the intimate photos of Israeli prime ministers and Jewish immigrants to the front lines of Israel’s major wars.
While talking about his most famous photo which was of the paratroopers after Israeli forces captured the Western Wall and East Jerusalem. Rubinger once mentioned that he did not think it was a very good photograph: “Part of the face is cut off on the right side, in the middle the nose protrudes, and on the left, there’s only half a face … photographically speaking, this isn’t a good photo.”
Here are few of his best photographs which won him recognition globally.
‘Not all terrorist attacks end in tragedy. This is the happy outcome of the hijacking of an Air France airliner flying the Tel Aviv-Paris route. The plane landed in Idi Amin’s Uganda and the Israeli passengers were held hostage at the Entebbe airport. On 4 July 1976, an intrepid group of Israeli commandos flew to Entebbe, engaged the Ugandan forces and brought all the hostages back, except for one elderly Israeli woman. The photo shows the crowd lifting the squadron leader of the rescue planes on their return to Israel’
Rubinger was awarded Israel’s highest honour, the Israel prize, in 1997
What I would like to believe is a typical image of the Israel Defence Forces (IDF): there isn’t one soldier in this line who is standing in the same position as another. Everything uniform about an army is missing. That was typical of the army of the 1950s and 60s. No saluting. No Prussian drill. No bullshit. But it wasn’t a bad army, by any means. One of my editors, a former US Marine officer, once visited Israel and commented, after seeing a few soldiers in the street: “They’re about the sloppiest looking soldiers I’ve ever seen. But they sure can fight!”’
IDF troops in chemical warfare training
Dawn of day two of the Yom Kippur war in 1973. An Israeli armoured brigade makes its way up to the Golan Heights to relieve the forces under Syrian attack
David Rubinger, who has died aged 92, was Israel’s finest photojournalist, capturing the country’s turbulent wars and proud people with an unfailing sense of composition and harmony. All images: David Rubinger
On the first day of the six-day war, I was in a half-track with General Israel Tal’s division,’ he said of this image. ‘As we headed for Rafiah and El Arish through the Gaza strip, an Egyptian truck ahead of us was hit by an Israeli plane. The picture of the flaming truck and the dead soldier best told the story that Israel and Egypt were again at war. Time used it as the background for its six-day war cover that featured a portrait of defence minister Moshe Dayan, and Life printed it over a double page’
David Ben-Gurion. ‘I had photographed Israel’s founding father countless times. That day he seemed to be carved out of granite; a sculpted prophet. His life’s task had been fulfilled. These were his last years, but he had still not lost his great energy, his vision’
Defence minister Moshe Dayan, right, and chief of staff Yitzhak Rabin fly back from the battlefield on the day after the six-day war
Marc Chagall and Israeli PM Golda Meir. ‘Marc Chagall’s tapestries were hung in the Knesset with all due fanfare. The notables of Israel were waiting with bated breath for yet another masterpiece by the artist laureate of the east European Jewish ghetto to be revealed. I knew I could always come back and get a shot of the art. But not of the main figures. I turned around and refocused on Golda Meir sitting next to Chagall, just as the drapes dropped and The Gobelins were uncovered. “What do you say to that, Golda?” Chagall said as he nudged her gently. “Do you like it?”’
Hand of dead Egyptian soldier. ‘Five years after the 1967 war in Sinai, I returned with colleagues to have a look at the battlefield. The wind had blown away the sand, revealing a macabre memento of the war. The hand of an Egyptian soldier who had found his grave in the dunes. Next to it was his helmet. His forefinger was pointing to heaven as though in admonition: No More War. But Sadat had arrived 10 years too late for him’
Jordanian and Israeli soldiers share tea. ‘Most people outside Israel do not realise that scenes like this do occur between enemies. A Jordanian soldier is offering a cup of sweetened tea to an Israeli soldier over the barbed wire on the border of divided Jerusalem. A joint Israel-Jordan team had just finished spreading poisoned meat along the border, to kill rabid dogs. The two enemies had put down their guns to combat a common danger’
An Israeli armoured brigade makes its way up to the Golan Heights ‘This picture is significant only because it was taken in the normally ultra-secret war room of southern command during the most critical hours of the Yom Kippur war. The army’s top generals face their maps, and so do I with my camera. I had simply walked in. No one stopped me or even asked me any questions. Everything was in disarray. The most secret maps were on the board and I was shooting pictures. It was frightening. This, essentially, was the war where the generals fought each other and the battles were won by the non-coms’ Photograph: David Rubinger/Corbis via Getty Images
‘A kiss and an embrace. Two brothers who had not met for years – one had just come from Moscow, the other from Tel Aviv’