The painting “The Citrus Grower,” is based on a portrait of a Palestinian family from Jaffa in the 1930s. Elia Kahvedjian, a survivor of the Armenian Genocide, takes the original photograph. He is born in Turkey in 1910, and experiences the death march with his family.
A Kurd whom they encounter along the way saves him. His mother, who understands where they are headed — and who has already lost three other children since the start of the march — gives Elia, then a young child, to the Kurdish man to save him.
After an arduous journey, and the loss of most of his family, Kahvedjian finally arrives in Nazareth with the help of the American Aid Association for the Near East. He getst his love of photography from Borosian, a teacher at his boarding school in Nazareth.
When he turns 16, this love takes Elia Kahvedjian to Jerusalem, where he studies photography with the Armenian photographers Joseph Toumaian and Garabed Krikorian, and later starts to work at the shop of the Hannania brothers, Christian-Arab photographers.
The Armenians are among the local photography pioneers in Palestine in the second half of the 19th century, and Kahvedjian continues the legacy. In 1940, he buys the shop from the Hannania brothers, and becomes an active and successful photographer, opening two more shops at the end of Jaffa Road, near the Fast Hotel.
There are numerous such shops in this area, including those owned by photographers Chalil Raad, Garabed Krikorian and Militad Savvides. After the war in 1948, the area becomes a no-man’s land. Alerted in advance, before the war, by friends in the British army, Kahvedjian is able to save his negatives and the contents of the store in time, and he opens a photography studio in the Christian Quarter of the Old City.
Throughout his life Elia Kahvedjian is involved in Arab society in Palestine and documents scenes of daily life in cities and villages — chess games, women at a well, the ploughing season, a Friday market, the orange harvest and more — many of them near Jerusalem, but also elsewhere, such as the Jaffa port.
Eliahou Eric Bokobza, a former pharmacist, who is born in Paris in 1963, the son of Tunisian immigrants, does the painting.
He follows the city of Jaffa, its orchards and orange groves, and returns these scenes to the history of Palestine.
Eliahou Eric Bokobza’s work returns the Palestinian identity of Jaffa, including its orchards and people, to Israeli public consciousness. A public consciousness, where generations of Israelis are raised on the ethos of “a land without a people for a people without a land,” and of Israelis making the wilderness bloom, while suppressing the existence of the Palestinian people in the country.
For painting see: