Ziv Koren published a picture of a Falash Mura woman immersing in a mikva. A firestorm of criticism erupted. But Koren now says the picture was taken at the suggestion of a staff member of the North American Conference on Ethiopian Jewry.
Allison Kaplan Sommer writes in the Forward:
…Koren entered the compound with the permission and cooperation of the NACOEJ, and recalls that it was a camp staff member who suggested that he enter the mikveh. And, he stresses, he did not take the nude photographs without permission. “I don’t speak Amharic, but I specifically asked my translator to ask each woman’s permission before I photographed her — to be honest, I photographed another woman as well, whose picture I didn’t publish,” he said. “These were adult women; we’re not talking about four-year-old girls.”
His critics point out that the women weren’t in a position to refuse, that they were completely dependent on the camp’s staff for their sustenance, they would be desperately afraid of doing anything that could jeopardize their chances of immigrating to Israel, and they were not worldly enough to understand that these photographs could be displayed in public.
On his Facebook page, one by a young Ethiopian man named Avi Taka praised his artistic skill, but explained how the photo could damage the woman it depicts. Taka wrote: “Ethiopian society is a very small and closed world where everyone knows everyone. In the immigrant community, women’s dignity is paramount and at the end of the day, when this young woman immigrates to Israel, you can’t imagine the judgement and isolation that she and her family could face, which could include dictates not to marry this woman and her being stigmatized as ‘easy’ or a prostitute.”
He said to Koren: “I call on your conscience and ask that you censor the photo so that you won’t turn this woman’s dream to move to Israel into a nightmare.”
Koren wrote on his wall that it was Taka’s argument opened his eyes, and convinced him to take down the photo from his Facebook wall and his website.…
The Forward's report makes clear that despite the report to the contrary published by Ha'aretz and my report based on that story, this did not take place at an absorption center in Israel. It took place at a transit camp in Ethiopia.