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Photographs of Orthodox Jewish Culture in Israel

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Jacob Nachumi is a documentary photographer based in Israel. As an Orthodox Jew, Nachumi has spent six years pointing his camera lens at the rituals, customs, and culture of his community.

The 32-year-old photographer was raised in the ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak, just east of Tel Aviv, and was educated at an ultra-Orthodox yeshiva, a school for studying traditional texts of the faith.

After photographing his environment for some time, Nachumi began trying to gain a deeper view of the traditions around him by attempting to see the customs from an outsider’s point of view. He also worked to gain access to private ceremonies that are normally closed off to outsiders — he was often driven away, but some communities did let him (and his camera) in.

An Orthodox Hassidic Jew lying on a grave.
An Orthodox Hassidic Jew lying on a grave.
Singing and praying before eating a prepared fish.
Singing and praying before eating a prepared fish.
Orthodox Jews at the funeral of one of the most important rabbis in the twentieth century - Rabbi Elyashiv.
Orthodox Jews at the funeral of one of the most important rabbis in the twentieth century – Rabbi Elyashiv.
A young bride and groom. After leaving the wedding ceremony, the bride and groom enter a special room and closed called the unremarkable room, where they are alone for a few minutes.
A young bride and groom. After leaving the wedding ceremony, the bride and groom enter a special room and closed called Cheder Yichud (room that unites), where they are alone for a few minutes.
Hasidic Jews watch as their rabbi lights Hanukkah candles.
Hasidic Jews watch as their rabbi lights Hanukkah candles.
A ceremony called Redemption Son, in which Jews redeem their son with an amount of money.
A ceremony called Pidyon Haben, in which Jews redeem their firstborn son with 5 silver coins.
Orthodox boy watching the Lag B'Omer bonfire and using cardboard to protect himself from the heat of the fire.
Orthodox boy watching the Lag B’Omer bonfire and using cardboard to protect himself from the heat of the fire.
Orthodox Jews have a service called Ditch where they pray and use fish in the atonement for their sins.
Orthodox Jews have a service called Tashlich, where they pray and throw their sins to the fish.
Hasidic Jews praying with four species during Sukkot.
Hasidic Jews praying with a Lulav (palm tree branch) during Sukkot.
Hasidic Jews dancing at a table called 'Tish' at the Jewish holiday Purim.
Hasidic Jews dancing at a table called ‘Tish’ at the Jewish holiday Purim.
Hasidic Jews dancing at a table called 'Tish' during the Jewish holiday Purim.
Hasidic Jews dancing at a table called ‘Tish’ during the Jewish holiday Purim.
Extreme orthodox Jewish women wearing coverings from head to toe to keep their modesty and not attract men sexually.
Extreme orthodox Jewish women wearing coverings from head to toe to keep their modesty and not attract men sexually.
Hasidic Jews perform a show called pouring water at a temple. This is the wedding of the daughter of their master Rebbe.
Hasidic Jews perform a show called pouring water at a temple. This is the wedding of the daughter of their master Rebbe.
Rabbi Gamliel Rabinowitz's granddaughter before her wedding. He holds her and dances in front by a rope to keep modesty and preventing touch between man and woman, which is prohibited by the Torah.
Rabbi Gamliel Rabinowitz’s granddaughter before her wedding. He holds her and dances in front by a rope to keep modesty and preventing touch between man and woman, which is prohibited by the Torah.
An Ultra-Orthodox boy looks through people's legs.
An Ultra-Orthodox boy looks through people’s legs.
Ultra-Orthodox Jews pray while holding willow tree branches.
Ultra-Orthodox Jews pray while holding willow tree branches.
Ultra-Orthodox Jews pray at the grave of Rav Ashi. The grave is at the border of Israel and Lebanon.
Ultra-Orthodox Jews pray at the grave of Rav Ashi. The grave is at the border of Israel and Lebanon.
Orthodox Jews dancing at a demonstration in Jerusalem against the government's intention to force the Israeli army to recruit them.
Orthodox Jews dancing at a demonstration in Jerusalem against the government’s intention to force the Israeli army to recruit them.
Bride waiting for the moment when an ultra-Orthodox rabbi dances with her at her wedding. The bride is covered to preserve modesty and separation between men and women.
Bride waiting for the moment when an ultra-Orthodox rabbi dances with her at her wedding. The bride is covered to preserve modesty and separation between men and women.

Nachumi tells PetaPixel that over time, he earned the trust of various groups within his city. These days, those groups will often contact him to photograph their events, rather than the other way around.


Image credits: Photographs by Jacob Nachumi and used with permission

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