Beth Jacob Synagogue

The four little girls who are the subject of this exhibition are the granddaughters of someone I first met in the winter of 1972. Eighteen years old, attending Tel Aviv University’s program for overseas students, and eager to improve my Hebrew, I was spending the semester break volunteering at Dafna, a kibbutz in the Upper Galilee region. My dining-hall duties at Dafna brought me into daily contact with Simcha Orpaz, a big-hearted, endlessly curious, and fun-loving kibbutznik with whom I whiled away countless hours in conversation. Over the next four decades, whenever I had occasion to be in Israel, I’d make a point of reconnecting with Simcha. No matter how much time had passed, it was always as if we’d spoken just days earlier—the conversation never missed a beat.

On visits to Israel over the last fourteen years, my husband, my daughters, and I have spent many memorable days with Simcha, his wife Dahlia, and their extended family. In their authenticity, loyalty, and devotion to family, community, and country, they represent everything we love about Israel.
The photographs in this series were taken at Kibbutz Snir, a five-minute drive from Dafna. Snir is home to two of Simcha and Dahlia’s children and their families. Their daughter Hila lives there with her family, as does their youngest son, Yahel, with his: his wife Ofri and their four daughters. Mika, Guy, Elan, and Dani are the third generation of the Orpaz family to grow up in this part of the Upper Galilee, an area of exceptional natural beauty. From their home, the children can see the Naftali mountain range to the west and the majestic Mount Hermon to the east. They can hike the trails of the nearby Banias nature reserve and kayak the pristine waters of the Dan River. Yet undoubtedly, the greatest blessing of their young lives is the large, loving family into which they were born.

One more biographical detail will shed further light on the significance this particular family holds for me. I too come from a family of four girls, and I am mother to my own four girls, who, to borrow a line from Maurice Chevalier, have grown up “in the most delightful way.” Photographing the Orpaz sisters, it now occurs to me, was a way to recapture precious memories of my own childhood and that of my children. My hope is that it does the same for you, and let’s all say, “Thank heaven for little girls.”

Download the brochure here.

Wendy Schneider
May 2017