Former IDF photographer aids the true heroes he documented

After completing his military service, IDF (Zahal) photographer Chanan Greenblat launches an exhibition of his works, dedicated to helping soldiers who suffer from post-trauma

Date: 13/07/2012, 4:59 PM     Author: Daniella Bokor

Many IDF (Zahal) soldiers, both in their regular and reserve service, have met Chanan Greenblat, whether they were aware of it or not. Always smiling and always with a camera hanging around his neck, the skilled IDF (Zahal) photographer could be found out in the field, among tanks and combat soldiers, snapping picture after picture. His presence was noticed at almost every ground forces training exercise, where with just a click he was able to document the smallest, most breath taking moments, perfectly conveying the essence of the IDF (Zahal).

During his service in the IDF (Zahal), Chanan experienced the army in an extremely unique way. “Even though I wasn’t a combat soldier, I was able to get a taste of the military environment, and see through my own eyes and through the lens of the camera what combat is really like, and document it,” he remembered.

While on a shoot at the Ground Forces Headquarters, Chanan became acquainted with the IDF (Zahal)’s mental health department, and the officer in charge of it, Hagai. Chanan explained, “The article wasn’t about post trauma, though during a conversation with the Hagai I learned about the Peace of Mind Project. It caught my attention, especially as a photographer, used to always observing things from the side lines.”

 “It all of a sudden occurred to me in a very profound way that all the soldiers I documented are very brave- true heroes. They were all very young, between 18 and 19 years old, and they carried weapons, busy being heroes,” he said. “When you are a combat soldier you are engaged in the combative situation, you focus on your mission and not on yourself or your environment. From the side lines I viewed things differently; I could feel their distress and hardships.”

Former IDF photographer aids the true heroes he documented

How the IDF (Zahal) deals with post-trauma

The Israeli Post-Trauma Center, along with the Peace of Mind Project, work to aid combat soldiers in coping with difficult experiences and traumas they may have gone through while serving in the military.

Former IDF photographer aids the true heroes he documented

The Peace of Mind Project takes groups of released soldiers for a two-part workshop taking place both in Israel and abroad. “Each workshop takes place somewhere else in the world, where Jewish communities host the groups,” said Chanan. During the meetings held in Israel, the veterans are taken to the sea. Chanan explained that “the sea is almost endless, and impossible to battle. You find yourself with your fellow soldiers in the chaotic sea with just a couple of kayaks, and suddenly you start to feel. After completing your military service, putting aside your helmet and gun, that’s when you can finally start talking about things.” 

Portraits of Combat

A short while after learning about the project, Chanan came back to their offices asking to help out. He then came up with the idea to hold an exhibition. “We decided to hold and exhibition in September, which will display 65 pieces I worked on while in the army. The purpose of the exhibition will be to expose most people to the issue of post trauma and the bravery of IDF (Zahal) soldiers,” said Chanan. “Moreover, we hope that with the exhibition we will be able to raise money for the Peace of Mind Project in a variety of ways: selling tickets at a symbolic price, selling photographs, and a book with the photographs from the event. All benefits will go straight to subsidize the project, and its unique way of treating post-trauma.”

Former IDF photographer aids the true heroes he documented

The title selected for the exhibition is Portraits of Combat since Greenblat believes that “these are the people that stand behind this survival.” He mentioned that “the exhibition is in no way political, and deals more with the people. The organization itself isn’t political. The emotional aspect and the mental coping of combat soldiers is the main focus.”