Mishpacha Magazine - Featured Israel Ambassador

Thank you to Mishpacha Magazine for the recognition and to Sandy Eller for a beautifully written article:

While much of the world seems to be looking at Israel through a critical lens, Yehoshua Aryeh Stauber is using his camera to change the narrative, one spectacular photograph at a time.

A Jerusalem resident who is passionate about capturing Israel’s innate beauty in images that are anything but typical, Stauber opened his Y.A. Fine Art Gallery in the shadow of the Mamilla Mall in the fall of 2019. In his wildest dreams, the 27-year-old father of two never could have imagined that he would one day display his photographs in the European Union Parliament in Brussels, at a time when Israel’s need for positive advocacy is at an all-time high.

“Now more than ever, people define things based on what they see,” explains Stauber. “If what everyone is seeing is images of war and conflict and pain and suffering, then that is how they will define Eretz Yisrael.”

Filled with depth, color, and meaning, Stauber’s work encapsulates Israel’s splendor and spirituality. His lens brings landscapes to life, transforms ordinary rocks into objets d’art, and breathes life into pendulous clouds and swirling water. Even now, as the war rages on and his wife Jordyn splits her time between managing the gallery and coordinating meals for women whose husbands are serving in the IDF reserves, Stauber still sees Hashem’s artistry everywhere he looks.

“This is the Eretz Yisrael that I see and I want to share that with everyone,” says Stauber. “The war and conflict are not eternal, but the beauty and the shalom of the land are, and that is what I want to show.”

How Stauber made the leap from displaying his art in his Mamilla gallery to the European Parliament in Brussels is one of those only-in-Israel stories that began unfolding a little more than four years ago. David Lega, a Swedish member of the European Parliament, was visiting Jerusalem and happened to be staying across the street from Stauber’s newly opened gallery near the end of 2019. Stauber was well aware that the general public may not necessarily think of photography as art, and his goal was to capture something deeper in his images, rather just replicating well-worn tropes.

“It was a pretty daring move,” admits Stauber. “We really knew nothing about having a gallery but wanted to see what the world would say about my work.”

Lega was entranced by the pieces he saw on display at Y.A. Fine Art, and he stopped in to speak to Stauber about his photographs. As the conversation unfolded, Lega told Stauber that the European Union Parliament hosts art exhibitions and he thought his art should be displayed there. Reaching out to the Israeli ambassador to the European Union, Haim Regev, the process of arranging an exhibition began taking shape. Everything was going well… and then Covid hit.

“We had already realized that things were going to get pushed off, but we didn’t realize how much,” says Stauber. “Two years later, we were still talking about if it was the right time yet.”

Lega began trying to rebook the display in October 2022, hoping to be able to show Stauber’s art in the spring. He discovered that the schedule for the main lobby exhibition area was booked solid for months, and while there were slots available in other less-trafficked areas, Lega insisted that it was worth waiting until the following December, so the display could be held in a prime location. Things finally seemed to be coming together, when the October 7 terror attacks turned Israel upside down.

“I had to take a step back,” says Stauber. “Maybe it wasn’t going to happen. Maybe we would be canceled. We hopped on a phone call and agreed that, under the circumstances, it was even more important to do the exhibition. Maybe it wasn’t the message that people wanted to hear. But we felt it was more important than ever to show people the side of Israel that we wanted to display.”

Stauber acknowledged that moving ahead with the exhibition was a sensitive process, particularly gaining the needed approvals from members of the upper house of Parliament. But all the pieces came together, and Stauber flew to Brussels with 11 pieces of his art for the December 4 opening of the exhibition. The event was by invitation only, with several members of Parliament and lobbyists for Jewish organizations coming to view the display, which was titled, “Land of Life.”

Lega’s brief introduction emphasized the importance of seeing Israel’s diverse and incredible beauty, which transcends politics and fosters critical dialogue that celebrates life.

“In such times of violence and rising hate, we need every effort, every sign of solidarity, every step toward peace, more than ever,” observed Lega.

The exhibition remained in place through December 8, which coincided with the first day of Chanukah. The timing made the message of shining light into the darkness even more profound for Stauber.

“On Chanukah, you wait until it gets dark and then you light the light,” notes Stauber. “It felt like that in Parliament, having my exhibition in a place of darkness, where Israel is not the most beloved topic.”

While Stauber had hoped that his artwork would create positive awareness to counter the propaganda being dished out daily by the media, he was surprised by the impact his display had on those who were already pro-Israel.

“David Lega told me that it was the first time he saw some of his colleagues smile in months,” observes Stauber. “Here I was thinking how important it was to show that side of Israel to people who don’t see it. But it was even more important for people who already know that side, but needed encouragement. They needed that extra charge, that light that they can feel connected to.”

While all of the pictures were well received, there were three that stood out in Stauber’s mind, each for a different reason. Light to the Nations, a wide-view shot of sunrise over the Old City, drew exhibition visitors with its distinct vibe, with many taking the time to speak with the artist about his work. Hidden Light was another favorite, its brilliant colors popping even as the sun receded on the last day of Chanukah, a feat that Stauber managed by keeping the camera’s shutter open for an extended period of time. A desert sunrise photo of an acacia tree titled Resilience held special meaning for Stauber, bringing home the timely message that Jews thrive under harsh circumstances.

“Just as the acacia tree grows where there is a river in the deserts, the Jewish People are drawn towards the wellsprings of Torah throughout difficult times for our nation,” explains Stauber.

Stauber was present during each day of the exhibition’s run, having one-on-one conversations with those viewing his artwork. Most gave him positive feedback, but perhaps the most memorable response came from a pair of Israeli brothers who had come to address Parliament about their brother, who is being held captive in Gaza.

“I saw them light up, and I got to give them hugs,” says Stauber. “They told me that I was representing Israel, and that hit me hard.”

While it was his talent that was on display, Stauber didn’t feel like he was the main focus of the exhibit.

“I felt like I was an ambassador shedding light on Israel’s positive side during a dark time,” says Stauber, who is eyeing Sweden for his next showing. “I felt so thankful and empowered and really felt like I was showing the beauty of the land of Israel."