Pass through the heavily guarded gates of Ma’ale Adumim, a Jewish settlement of 40,000 that sits four miles east of Jerusalem, and the Judaean Desert melts away into a haze of bougainvilleas, lush lawns, and artificial ponds. In the heart of the occupied West Bank, it’s an island of American-style suburbia.
Nick Waplington’s new photography book, Settlement, explores the sometimes incongruous domestic life of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, which are illegal under international law. The book came out of a project called This Place, which asked 12 photographers from around the world to document different sides of Israel and the occupied territories. In the five years he spent living in Jerusalem, Waplington, who is British, visited nearly 350 Jewish settlements, from rickety outposts to well-established towns like Ma’ale Adumim, which was founded in 1975, after Israel took the land in the 1967 war.
Waplington captures settler families—mostly immigrants from the US, the UK, South Africa, and the former Soviet Union—in their homes, along with the suburban spaces that surround them. The photos in the book aren’t explicitly ideological, but politics are embedded in every frame. The luxuriant backyards set against brittle hills, for instance, illustrate the Israeli water policy that diverts most of the West Bank’s aquifers to settlers. A solitary settler-only bypass road snaking across the landscape shows the infrastructure supporting the settlements. Separation has always been at the heart of the suburban dream. But mapping that idea onto a place of conflict makes for uneasy viewing.
Here are a selection of images from the book, which was published by MACK.