The “Syrian-African Break” is the popular name for the Israeli part of the Great Rift Valley which crosses Israel from its northernmost point to its southernmost tip.

En route, it carves its way through the Golan Heights, Hula Valley, Sea of Galilee, Jordan Valley, Dead Sea, Arava Valley and Red Sea. This geographic phenomenon also plays a key role in the way physical borders have been drawn. The break shapes the borders with Lebanon and Syria in the north and the border with Jordan and Egypt in the south.

Roadcut, Route 90, 2016. © Roei Greenberg

My journey is a poetic exploration of the topographic boundaries of this geographic phenomenon. It also confronts another layer of a division that this local landscape represents: from the minefields of the Golan Heights, over the border with Lebanon, through the peeling, painted walls of an abandoned hotel in Tiberias and the thunderous silence of the border with Jordan. It can be seen in the empty communal kibbutz dining hall, an abandoned resort on the drying shores of the Dead Sea and the surrounding desert plains.

Landscape (painting), Dining Hall, Kibbutz Yiftach, 2015. © Roei Greenberg

Physical and metaphorical journeys are the main themes in this work, which focuses on places where geography and history meet. My attitude towards the place is not limited to nostalgia or longing, but instead searches for a more complex perspective, critical and sarcastic on one hand and laced with great empathy on the other. This emotional duality runs through the photographs and sews them together in a way that questions the photographic narrative of the “here and now” and my position as documenter. Ultimately, I think of myself not only as a photographer but as a poet.

This formal approach to photography—as if it were painting—and the extremely detailed large-format prints create an ongoing dialogue between the sublime and the everyday.

—Roei Greenberg

Editors’ note: Greenberg is also putting together a book called “Along the Break” that includes work connected to the idea of the Break—both geographically and conceptually—created over the last five years.

This project was a finalist in the Magnum Photography Awards 2017. Discover more inspiring work from all 41 of the winners, finalists, and jurors’ picks.

If you’re interested in seeing more work like this, we’d recommend the following articles: The Quest for the Man on the White Donkey, images that traverse the landscape of present-day Israel in search of the “in-between places,” and A Myth of Two Souls, a stunning photographic vision of the Ramayana, India’s national epic, created over the course of several years.