Naftali Oppenheim, 1912-1953
Naftali Oppenheim was born in 1912 in Giessen, Germany. As a young boy he joined the Zionist youth movement and knew then that his future would be in Eretz Israel. Those were the days of the rise of the Nazis in Germany, and Naftali, who had completed his studies, went off to engage in agricultural training with a Jewish farmer in south Germany. In 1953 he was appointed as director of Beit Hehalutz in Frankfurt, where he found time to study photography on his own, after completing his work and social activities. In 1937 he immigrated with other members of the Betelem group to Eretz Israel, and came to Kinnereth. In Kinnereth Naftali contracted infantile paralysis. His resilient personality and desire helped him overcome the illness, and despite his disabilities he decided to continue to be productive and find work that would suit his capabilities. He returned to photography, and in his characteristic meticulousness set up photography as one of the kibbutz branches. Kibbutz Ein Gev was established as a Tower and Stockade settlement in 1937, and near the eastern shore of the Kinnereth he set up Photo Betelem – Naftali, Ein Gev.
He travelled to all the settlements in the Emek and took photographs of building, agricultural and industrial workers, the children of the Emek and their families. The quality of his photographs brought him a great deal of fame and he became a sought-after photographer.
While on guard duty with another guard in 1953, a fatal mistake of identity occurred and Naftali was shot and killed. His numerous photographs were transferred to the archives of the Emek Hayarden regional council. Some 4,000 photos, selected from his estate, were scanned in the Bitnumna laboratory.
Curator: Kinneret Palti
Opens: January 5
Closes: March 30, 2007