Who Is Mystery Woman in Iconic Photo of Old Jordan Valley?

Sleuth Hunts for Answers — and Opens Window on History

Who’s That Girl? Photography researcher Guy Raz found one image he can’t get out of his head. But he has no idea whom it depicts.
naftali oppenheimer
Who’s That Girl? Photography researcher Guy Raz found one image he can’t get out of his head. But he has no idea whom it depicts.

By Ofer Aderet

Published November 17, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(Haaretz) — Photography researcher Guy Raz has spent the past few months going through 50,000 negatives of old pictures for a new exhibition he’s curating that will display, among other items, old photos taken in the Jordan Valley.

In the midst of his work, he came upon a series of mysterious photographs of an unknown woman seated at the grave of Rachel “the Poetess” Bluwstein in the Kinneret cemetery. The photo was taken in 1945, 14 years after the poetess, who had written what would become the lyrics of classic Hebrew songs, died at age 40.

“I found a needle in a haystack,” says Raz. “I went over tens of thousands of pictures, sorted them by subject, and put to the side, in the ‘not sure’ file, those pictures I couldn’t figure out.”

Who is the unknown woman and why did she choose to be photographed at Rachel’s grave? Raz is now trying to get the answers to those questions. As part of his quest, he contacted historian Dr. Uri Milstein, a relative of Rachel’s, but he has yet to come up with the answer.

The photographer who documented the slim, elegantly dressed woman contemplating the grave was Naftali Oppenheim. Oppenheim was born in Germany in 1912 and got involved in photography as a teenager, after getting his first Leica as a gift from his parents. In 1937 he left his homeland, where he’d been studying physics, and immigrated to Palestine with his friends from the B’Telem group, who had been members of the Hehalutz youth movement and were the founding nucleus of Kibbutz Ein Gev.

Between 1938 and 1953, when he was killed, Oppenheim photographed the people of the Jordan Valley at work and against the valley landscapes. “He worked as a photographer after he’d been struck with polio and got around with difficulty,” notes Raz. His death was the result of a tragic error by an Israel Defense Forces soldier who mistook him for an infiltrator as he was doing guard duty at his kibbutz at night.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • For Moroccan Jews, the end of Passover means Mimouna. Terbhou ou Tse'dou! (good luck) How do you celebrate?
  • Calling all Marx Brothers fans!
  • What's it like to run the Palestine International Marathon as a Jew?
  • Does Israel have a racism problem?
  • This 007 hates guns, drives a Prius, and oh yeah — goes to shul with Scarlett Johansson's dad.
  • Meet Alvin Wong. He's the happiest man in America — and an observant Jew. The key to happiness? "Humility."
  • "My first bra was a training bra, a sports bra that gave the illusion of a flat chest."
  • "If the people of Rwanda can heal their broken hearts and accept the Other as human, so can we."
  • Aribert Heim, the "Butcher of Mauthausen," died a free man. How did he escape justice?
  • This guy skipped out on seder at his mom's and won a $1 million in a poker tournament. Worth it?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.