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Israeli woman in N.Y. Times breast cancer photo speaks out

by Talia Lavin, JTA

December 2, 2013 | 1:22 pm

An unnamed Israeli woman pictured in a controversial photo on the front page of The New York Times last Wednesday spoke out in response to critics of the paper’s choice of images.

An image of the woman’s upper body — including an incision scar, a portion of her aureola and a Star of David tattoo — was featured as the lead photo in the paper that day to illustrate a story about breast cancer screening in Israel.

In describing her decision to remain anonymous, the woman wrote, “The cancer I fought this past year is a part of me, but it’s not who I am.” But the photo, which some critics called inappropriate, was “artistic,” she said, a depiction of her struggle with breast cancer.

Some readers took offense at what they said was a shocking and sensationalistic image, citing the partial nudity. And some were upset by the prominent display of the Star of David tattoo on her shoulder. (Under traditional Jewish law, tattoos are prohibited.)

But for this Israeli woman, whose family, she says, includes Holocaust survivors, the tattoo is an expression of her Jewish and Israeli pride.

“When I was 17, I went with my high school on a trip to the concentration camps in Poland,” she wrote. “It was a very emotional and difficult trip, and when I returned to Israel I was so proud that I am Jewish and Israeli that I wanted the whole world to know.”

After the New York Times photo, that desire is certainly closer to coming true.

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