Ivan Benda
Tel: 06 20 / 944-1205


Photographer of Jerusalem, Bible picture Gallery, photos, pictures of Jews, Pictures of Christians,  photos of Muslims, pictures of Holyland, pictures of Israel, photos of Palestina, Image of Holyland. 

“There is no community life, no human culture without a “holy space”, a “holy land”. Such holy spaces in miniature are all the churches, but in a broader sense they could be landscapes, countries, cities. For a Jew, a Christian or a Muslim it is first of all – Jerusalem.”

by László Csorba

Recommend links: László Csorba Going up J...

Budapest– Tel Aviv is a three hour flight. Arrival at Ben Gurion airport.

Imust admit that it is not to one’s advantage if one doesn’t speak any foreign languages in a foreign country. Never mind, driving a car can be no problem, so let’s rent one and Jerusalemhere we come. The road-signs bearing the names of towns familiar from the Bible, like Ashdod, Bersehva, Betlehem and there is one showing that Jerusalemis 40 kilometersaway. There is no time for musing much, the landscape becomes more and more mountainous and the suddenly dense traffic indicates that I’ve arrived to the City. Yes, I’ve arrived to Jerusalem. The best tactic is to find and follow the sign “CityCenter” which is so familiar from Europe. There it is. And there is another one indicating “OldCity”. I stick to the latter and after ten minutes of horn-blowing, negotiating narrow and winding streets and who knows what else, I recognize the Towerof David, only so well known from postcards. I’m parking as anywhere else, inserting coins into the parking machine, and leaving behind my only safe heaven, my rent-a-car. I’m ready for adventure.


Ten years later in the Old City of Jerusalem.

Ten years later, in the Old City of Jerusalem, in the Arab quarter, sitting on a carved stone, remnant from the era of Jesus, under the Ece Homo Arch on the Via Dolorosa, watching the billowing crowds, the so often heard Shakespearean words come to my mind: The world’s a stage…

Thousands of pilgrims from all over the world flock to Israel and to the holy land of Christians, Jews and Muslims, Jerusalem, in order to visit biblical places, like: the Wailing Wall, the holiest site for Jews; the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, at the ground of which Jesus was crucified on the Golgotha two thousand years ago;  the gone by Temple of Salomon on the Temple Mount, where the Muslims’ holy mosque, the El-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock are located; and the magnificent Mount of Olives.


Recommend links: The Living Jerusalem

The Mount of Olives and the Temple Mount– the Haram al-Sharif

I could never imagine what the Mount of Oliveswould look like. Everything seems so simple here. Trudging along the steep slopes of the mountain at dawn, leaving behind the Gardens of Gethseman, walking through winding paths along cemeteries and finally immersing in the scenery of the OldCity. Everything is so peaceful at this hour; the Sun rises from behind the mountain, and covers the OldCitywith its light. The golden cupola of the Dome of the Rock shines over Jerusalem.

There we are. This may be perhaps the most famous Sacred square of the history of mankind. In the forefront the magnificent Dome of the Rock (Qubbat-as-Sakhrah) and alongside the El-Aqsa Mosque.

According to the Old Testament, this place, the MoriaMountainis the venue of the story of Abraham and Isaac. This is the land David bought from Arauna, the last King of the Jebusites; this is the land where Salomon built his wonderful temple, only to be destroyed by Nabukodonozor several hundred years later and rebuilt by Jews who had returned from exile

The ambitious Herod raised the most extraordinary sanctuary of the World here. Enormous crowds must have gathered on the Temple’s Square on holidays and festivities. Hundreds and hundreds of animals were sacrificed for Jahve on the central altar; this is the place where Joseph and Anna introduced their daughter Maria to God, also where the son of Maria, the young Jesus spent his holidays.

Of course, it is already a story from the New Testament. The pagan Romedestroyed the second templeof Jerusalem; the Aelina Capitolina did not require the sacred mountainof Moria.

Several hundred years later Mohammed was praying together with Mozes and Jesus in one of his visions at this same place, and it was from here that Archangel Gabriel lifted him up to the “seven heavens”. The farthest sanctuary, the El-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock were built to commemorate this particular momentum.

Like in a fairy tale, an elderly Arab man showed up, riding on a donkey. Reaching the Jewish cemetery he let his animal graze around the graves, where grass grew thicker. He came to me, and regardless of our mutually poor English vocabulary, we exchanged our views on world subjects. He emphasized that to him it makes no difference where one comes from, whether one is an Arab, a Jew or a Christian, the most important is to have peace on earth. Having said this, he took my head in his palms in a peremptory manner, giving me a kiss on my forehead with his unshaven chin. With the words “Salam Aleykum” he and his donkey took their departure, after equally blessing me and the rest of the World.

Muslims, Jews and Christians in the Old City.

In the streets of the OldCity, in the soukh, Arab tradesmen are offering their arts & crafts for tourists coming from Europe, Asia and America, like original Jesus crucifixes, menorahs, Hanukkah candle holders, all sorts of sacred objects of piety of the ancient Jerusalem.

On entering the Christian Quarter, noises of the bazaar are fading away; groups of pilgrims  are singing Biblical psalms, a multitude of photographing tourists are on their way to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher or to the Golgotha, where Jesus was crucified.

It is really an imposing experience to see and hear, and for the photographer to capture through the camera, as the Greek orthodox, the Roman Catholic, the Armenian, the Copt, the Syrian, the Ethiopian, the Greek Catholic, the Maronite, the Evangelic, the Lutheran, the Protestant, the Anglican, the evangelic Christian and members of who knows what sects, arrive from all parts of the world, are praying and singing in a Babel-like cacophony. Yes, Jerusalem, Jerusaleim is the center of the world!

When the Christian Easter and the Jewish Easter, the Pesach, coincide, it is worth-while to approach the Jewish Quarter through the Arab or the Armenian quarters, to eyewitness as orthodox Jews, dressed to the occasion, are praying by the Wailing Wall, or as the local people call it, by the Kotel HaMa'aravi. The Wall is at its best in the afternoon sunlight. The colossal square is empty at times, with only a few people praying by the Wall, while it is usually filled with the laughter of children and is ceremonial on Friday afternoons, when Jews are celebrating the forthcoming of the Sabbath.

For centuries only a narrow passageway had separated the Wall from the Mugrabi Quarter, inhabited by Arabs settled in from Morocco. For prayers here it was only a delusion that the Wailing Wall is sky-high.

The slum was demolished as an aftermath of the 1967 war, so visitors can longer sense the formerly magic spell of this colossal Wall.

But then, something is always happening here. Once I had the privilege of witnessing a bar-mitzvah from close. A father and son were reading the Torah together, while women were watching the proceedings of the initiation ceremony, the transition of the youth to manhood from a distance, from behind a fence.

The worshippers pray to God at times by becoming entirely one with the Wall, or by bowing and davening in front of it. The accompanying tunes of their prayers are the constant chirping of birds and the singing of the muezzin, summoning Muslims to prayer.

Recommend links: Holy Sepulchre

The biblical topics and motifs, the venues of the Holy Land from time to time are reflected in my other fields of interest, like the theatre, dance and concert, or portrait photography.

The ballet “Stabat Mater” by Robert North, the ballet “Joseph and his brothers” by Iván Markó, the opera “Nabucco” by Verdi, Bulgakov’s “Master and Margarita”, “The Tragedy of Man” by Madách - and I could keep on listing the masterpieces – all their stories lead us back to the Holy Land, to Jerusalem.  

In my portrait photography, besides taking pictures of famous artists and public figures (e.g. Yehudi Menuhin; Isaac Stern; Paco de Lucia; B.B. King; Herbie Hancock; Sir George Solti; Miklós Jancsó; Károly Makk; Francois Mitterand; Bill Clinton;) I enjoy photographing archaic faces on the Arab streets of Jerusalem’s OldCity, in Mea Searim, the orthodox Jewish neighborhood, in chic cafés of Budapestor in my studio.

Recommend links: Ballet of Győr , Istvan L. Sándor. Gates of Time , Ivan Markó. Hungarian Festival Ballet

The Hellenic Culture

The Cretan and Greek culture played a decisive role in the history of the Jewish nation. The Philistines, who had emigrated from the Islandof Crete(the name of Palestineis a derivation of their name, by the way) fought severe wars with the Jews for centuries in order to conquer Canaan. About a thousand years later, the heirs of the empire of Alexander the Great, the Ptolemaios and Celeusid dynasties forced the Hellenic culture on the conquered nations, among them on the Palestinian Jews. 

What was this culture like that could have such an enormous effect on the World’s nations?

It was monumental, like the Acropolis of Athens; mysterious like the sanctuary of Aphaea, or the Oracle of Delphi; stunning, like the venue of the ancient drama: the Theater of Ephidauros; and finally, matchless, like the atmosphere of the stadiums of ancient Olympics in Olympiaand Delphi.

The other great stage of the ancient and modern history is Italy.

Recommend links: The world of the ancient Olympic Games , Paris , London , Netherland

Let’s stop in Rome for a moment!

A walk at the Forum Romanum gives the photographer an exclusive momentum to feel the breeze of history in the EternalCity. Through the Via Sacra, looking upwards one can get a glimpse of the Templeof Jupiteron the Capitolium; meanwhile we can pass the Arch of Titus, the hero of Romeand the destroyer of Jerusalem. Not far from the Forum a different

Romecaptures our eyes: the Campo di Fiori and its vicinity, the Romeof yesterday and today.

At other locations in Italy, among the breathtaking ridges of the Alps, from the peaks of the

Dolomites all away down to the Adriatic Sea, and at the battlefield of Doberdo, I’ve photographed the Hungarian memorials and reminiscences of World War I.

Now, after having visited the locations of the cradle of European culture, we should take a glimpse of Paris, Londonand Amsterdam.

Recommend links: Hungarian monuments in Italy , Italy

Finally, it is time we returned home to Hungary.

It is time to return to the Hungarian landscape; to the photo-histories of villages and towns; to the photographic-essays of the seventies; to the Bauhaus-buildings of Napraforgó Street; to the National Graveyard in Fiumei Street; to the Bartók Memorial House; and to my eternal love, Lake Balaton, where I’ve always felt free. It is time to return to an old bastion of communism, the now silent Steam-plant at Inota; to an authentic Hungarian vintage festivity in Csobánc; and to perhaps the smallest and remotest settlement, Tornabarakony on Cserehát, where remnants of the ancient Hungarian village-life are still to be found. I seem to hear the voice of Aunt Anna in the Tornabarakony street, saying: “I’ve lived here all my life, in this small village, and for me it is the most wonderful place on Earth. For me it is the center of the Universe, this is my Jerusalem.”

There are so many people, who try to find their place in the world – and when they manage to find it … I mean, we manage to find it, only then are we allowed to say: We have arrived to Jerusalem!  

If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning.

If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth;

if I prefer not Jerusalemabove my chief joy.

Book of Psalms /137, 5-6/

Recommend links: G. Bota. Lurking Lights. , Landscapes , Cities , Villages , Bódvalenke