A freelance Israeli photographer discovered his passion for visual storytelling upon his return home to Israel after studying in the United States.
But it was a personal crisis invoked by the 2014 war in Gaza that motivated Udi Goren to set out on a two and a half month journey along the Israel National Trail as a form of self-exploration and detoxification from friction and discord.
World-renowned as one of the world’s best, toughest and most beautiful long-distance hikes, the trail stretches 700 miles from Israel’s Lebanese border up north all the way past Eilat in the south, close to Israel’s border with Egypt.
As the first professional photographer to have walked and documented the Israel National Trail in its entirety, Goren has used the experience to give talks across the United States and Israel, passing along the knowledge he has gained from his travels to a new generation of students.
“Through the trail and through my own personal story, I actually tell the story of Israel,” said Goren. He has translated his lecture into both English and Hebrew in order to reach a larger number of students, culminating his tours with a visit back to his alma mater, Brooks Institute of Photography in California.
Having successfully transitioned from despair to hope while walking the trail, Goren offers his course as a way to “help students experience Israel beyond the headlines, allowing them to hear a firsthand account of his physical and mental journey.” He also aims to impress his audiences with his breathtaking photographs of the national monuments, mountains, creeks and Israeli landscapes that he encountered along the trail.
The next step for Goren is to publish a first-ever photography book about the Israel National Trail, and then find other ways to share his experiences with students. He said he hopes to add more visuals to his discussion, including video content, to build a faster-paced, more engaging presentation for high school students.
As Goren travels around the world to speak with students about his experiences on the Israel National Trail, he offers aspiring young photographers some sage advice. “Stay focused, know where you’re going and try to plan out milestones on your way there.”
A self-described activist who endeavors to make an impact with his photography, Goren also encourages the students to realize that “when done right, photography and storytelling can bring forth great changes.”
Goren’s Israel National Trail photographs can be viewed by clicking here.Hana Levi Julian