Israeli photographer receives int'l award for Silwan photo

Photo of Elad head ramming young Arab rock-thrower with his car originally aroused suspicion that stoning was staged.

Silwan car crash 311 (photo credit: Ilia Yefimovich/AFP)
Silwan car crash 311
(photo credit: Ilia Yefimovich/AFP)
A 23-year-old Israeli photographer was honored in an international photography competition for the “spot news” photo of the year, for his picture of the incident in east Jerusalem’s Silwan neighborhood last fall in which Elad head David Be’eri rammed into two Arab youths throwing rocks at his car.
The dramatic photo of a boy being thrown onto the hood of Be’eri’s car earned Ilia Yefimovich, a photographer for the Russian News Agency Itar-Tass, an award of excellence. The final winners of the Pictures of the Year International competition will be announced on February 23.
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Yefimovich said he wasn’t surprised that his photo was cited, because “it so perfectly captured the moment” in an otherwise “lame” year of news in Israel.
The photo was greeted with suspicion around the world, with many accusing Yefimovich and the other photographers of “setting up” the situation, and even encouraging the youths to throw rocks so they would have something to photograph.
“I went to Silwan every week for the past eight months, every single Friday,” he told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday.
“So it’s not like, ‘Whoa, what were the journalists doing there?’ They send us to these places because things happen here.
“I pass there lots of times, and kids throw stones not because photographers are coming to shoot them, they do it because they want to do it.
You can see them not just on Friday, but on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, morning, noon, and night.”
Yefimovich added that rocks were thrown at his own car on the way to Silwan that day, without any photographers present.
The intersection where he photographed the accident is less than 100 meters from a protest tent in the Al-Bustan area, where Friday prayers are held, and which often serves as a springboard for Friday violence.
On that particular day, October 8, Silwan residents were holding a funeral for the mother- in-law of Samr Sirkan, a Silwan man who was killed by a private security guard two weeks earlier. Sirkan’s mother-inlaw was hospitalized, possibly from tear gas inhalation or shock from a stun grenade, during the ensuing riots, and had died. Yefimovich said he was expecting riots or other violence during or after the funeral, which was held on the Mount of Olives.
He was joined by a few other photographers, including a videographer for Al-Jazeera who taped the entire incident. Most photographers stay away from Silwan on Fridays, Yefimovich said.
“[Rock throwing] is something that happens every week, and it’s dangerous, so why put yourself in danger if it’s not a picture?” he said. “But I go anyway, because I don’t know if it’s going to be big.”
When he photographed the incident, he had no idea who was driving the car. He sent the photos off to his editor and proceeded to the funeral for Sirkan’s mother-in-law, which ended up being a non-story with only a dozen people in attendance.
“In my opinion and also others’ opinions, this picture is working out much better for Be’eri than for the kids,” Yefimovich said. “The kid was arrested and he’s in jail. The guy who ran him over has no fine.”
Yefimovich, 23, is in his last semester of a bachelor’s degree in video and photography in Tel Aviv. He came to Israel with his family from Moscow when he was 13. In addition to the Russian news agency, Yefimovich also sells his photos to AFP. AFP nominated him for the Picture of the Year award.
Yefimovich had one word of advice for young photographers interested in photojournalism: Don’t come to Israel.
“Israel is a really difficult place to work, it’s really small and there aren’t any stories that nobody covers,” he said. “Everything you think about, somebody already did it. It’s a hard place to work, because it’s really small and there’s a lot of photographers.
Every event you go to, you find a lot of photographers.
Everyone’s pushing and shouting and everyone is on top of everyone else. Then you have them in the frame and they get mad at you.”