These three photographs are wide views, taken from three different distances of Rishon Le Zion, a city south-east of Tel Aviv. They depict the point where the edge of the city and the edge of the desert meet.
There are two themes which recur in the work of Ophir. One is the opposition of nature to culture and the other is the impact of militarisation on the landscape. In both he seeks an engagement with urgent social and political issues in Israel. Rishon Le Zion literally means 'first in Zion' and it was the first permanent settlement established in Israel by Zionist immigrants in the late nineteenth century. These three photographs of Rishon le Zion, from a larger series, show the border between desert and urban agglomeration from different vantage points. Much of Israel seems to be in a permanent state of construction and Ophir captures this aspect of the culture in three impassive photographs.
The issue of urban spread is an important one in a country which is so small, because if urbanisation continues at its present rate there will be little desert left. Israel has undergone a huge growth in population as it absorbs increasing number of immigrants (all Israelis are so to speak immigrants) who have to be accommodated in housing. The issue of what constitutes a house, and even a family, is also under discussion in a country where house and family are sacred institutions.
One of the most extraordinary sights in Israel is the way in which urban mass appears to stop abruptly at the edge of the desert as though the desert resists any attempt at colonisation. However, since the time that Ophir took these photographs, the dunes in the foreground have been built over so the photographs also act as documents of a moment in time and of rapid change.
90 70 90, exhibition catalogue, Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Tel Aviv 1994
Jeremy Lewison and Giorgia Bottinelli