West Bank image earns ‘Best in Show’ for journalism student

A photograph by senior journalism major Michelle Zei earned a “Best in Show” honor at the University of San Diego’s Trans-Border Institute’s Re-Imagining Borders Contest.

Michelle Zei’s winning image of the Tomb of the Patriarch in Hebron.

Her image of a religious site in the West Bank that shows Israelis and Palestinians entering the building on opposite sides of a security fence earned one of the top honors in the college student mobile device category.

The winners were invited to San Diego in April, where they were able to hear a lecture by photojournalist Jon Lowenstein of NOOR Images and attended a workshop that covered everything from composition to ethics.

Here’s what Zei says inspired her to capture this image with her iPhone:

“My photo was taken in Hebron in the West Bank. The old city of Hebron has been almost completely shut down by the Israeli military. What was once a vibrant marketplace is now a quiet and controlled space. However, the Tomb of the Patriarch continues to draw a large crowd of both Palestinians and Israelis, as well tourists visiting both places. In my studies over the past few years, I was both disheartened and fascinated by Hebron because Israeli settlers literally live above Palestinians in parts of the city. There is a barbed wire and metal netting covering the Palestinian section of the old city, while settlers have moved in above. The metal nets are full of trash from above which attests to the dehumanizing conditions that many Palestinians in Hebron face from settlers.

“In the midst of violence and separation, Palestinians continue to visit their mosque, which is also where Jews come to worship at their temple. The building is one place and shows the religious common ground that exists in the midst of an occupation that separates people. Since I entered through the Palestinian side, I went through tight turn styles and passed through a checkpoint outside of the mosque in order to enter the Tomb of the Patriarch. I imagined what it must be like to have to go through the checkpoint multiple times a day—to have your belongings and body checked—just to pray. I took this simple photo because it shows the groups of people that visit and value the building, as well as the great security and division that mark a place of such great religious and historical significance.”