'Then and now photo' project claims to capture Israel's fulfillment of biblical prophecy

Christian Israel enthusiast says dramatic change in landscape is "a literal fulfillment" of the Hebrew prophet Ezkiel's vision.

Israel then and now
A drive down Highway 90 to the Dead Sea 12 years ago was the catalyst for an ambitious photography project comparing 100-year-old pictures of the Holy Land to modern-day ones. Pennsylvania resident Doug Hershey didn't know its significance then, but regular visits to Israel since --often taking groups of friends with him-- led to his observation that 12 years on, it's an entirely different landscape.
"Twelve years ago, about twenty minutes after we would leave the rich and fertile farmland of the Galilee, the scenery would become dry, brown and dusty desert with small communities scattered along the way until you crested a ridge and saw the green and lush oasis of the ancient city of Jericho 90 minutes later," Hershey recalls. Now, however, he notes that new Israeli desert farming technology has transformed that very same journey, with desert orchards, vast greenhouses and small farms. "It doesn't look like I remember," he tells The Jerusalem Post.
Hershey launched last month a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for his photojournalism book, and has just a week left to raise the desired $18,000 for the five-week photo shoot project -- in both Israel and the West Bank-- and publishing. Hershey has obtained publishing permission for 2206 photos from the “American Colony, Eric Matson Collection” (1881-1940s), which he then whittled down to 250 of the best photos in over 25 locations throughout Israel and the West Bank. Collaboration with Chaim Malespin, director of the Aliyah Return Center in Tiberias has also helped Hershey and his photographer Elise Theriault to access locations, particularly in the West Bank, which may have been harder to find without his help.
Then photo courtesy of American Colony: Eric Matson collection/ Now photo by Elise Theriault
Through this project, Hershey wants to show people "how dramatic the change has been in the land" since the birth of the state of Israel in 1948. He says the vision of the Hebrew prophet Ezekiel is being realized before our very eyes, citing Ezekiel 36, where Ezekiel was told to speak “to the mountains and to the hills, to the ravines and to the valleys; that it will put forth fruit, man and beast would be multiplied on it, and the waste cities will be rebuilt when His people Israel returns to the land."
No other people has been thrown off their land again and again over thousand of years, to later return to the same piece of land as a recognizable, identifiable people, Hershey says. "The land was conquered and reconquered and it never became a homeland for any other people, and it never produced for any other people." He points at Israel's booming flowers, fruit and vegetables industry, declaring that what Israel has done with the land in the past 67 years is a "stunning transformation."
"No matter where you stand on biblical prophecies, it's a unique land with a unique people that together have a joint destiny," he stresses. "When the Jewish people are on the land it prospers and we can see how dramatic that transformation has been."
Then photo courtesy of American Colony: Eric Matson collection/ Now photo by Elise Theriault
Hershey himself has Jewish heritage but was raised in a Christian home and is active in both religious communities. He identifies with the Messianic Jewish stream of Christianity, giving value to the Torah and Tanach while following teachings of Jesus.
"I do not shy away from being a Christian but recognize the amount of pain the organized church has caused the Jewish people throughout the centuries," he emphasizes. "So in some small way I hope this book project can bring Jews and Christians together on the land that both hold dear."
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