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These Walls Talk, in Hebrew

In West Jerusalem, neighborhood borders are often marked by the political graffiti sprayed on the streets

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(All photos courtesy of the author)

It’s hard to ignore the graffiti plastered on the walls of West Jerusalem. Unlike the stylized tags one finds on the streets of New York, more often than not graffiti here bluntly proclaims a political message. As I walked around Jerusalem to document its graffiti in this set of photos, I could often tell that I was entering a new neighborhood only by the sorts of ideological slogans that were spray-painted on the buildings around me.

In the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Mea Shearim, for example, “Jewish not Zionist” is a common slogan. But take a short stroll from Mea Shearim to the city center, and you’ll confront quite a different message: Here, the ultra-Orthodox are frequent targets. The most common tag in the city center proclaims, “Derech eretz (good manners) comes before the Torah.” Adapted from a Jewish proverb, this line is meant as a dig at the city’s ultra-Orthodox Jews, who are seen by some secular Jews as disrespectful to less religious Jerusalemites. The graffiti in the city center also addresses wider issues plaguing Israeli society: I saw graffiti that expressed fear of the political right, support for the Mizrahi (Middle Eastern Jewry), anxiety about economic inequality, and competing Jewish and Arab claims to the Holy Land.

A mix of young hipsters and religious people populates the Jerusalem neighborhood of Nachlaot. I saw graffiti there that rewrites “Hatikvah,” Israel’s national anthem, to include the country’s Arab minority. In a tunnel leading to Jerusalem’s central bus station, someone hastily sprayed in large looping letters, “Kahane was right,” referencing Meir Kahane, whose political party was outlawed in Israel years ago because it was deemed racist toward Arabs.

But not all of Jerusalem’s graffiti conveys overtly political messages: Walter Sobchak from The Big Lebowski makes appearances throughout the city.

To launch a slideshow of images of West Jerusalem’s graffiti, please click the link at above left.

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PhillipNagle says:

There is no “West Jerusalem”. For now, Jerusalem is a single city. There certainly is “west Jerusalem”, but by capitalizing the w in west Jerusalem or the e in east Jerusalem the author is indicating they are seperate cities.

gemel says:

The slide of the map of Israel does not include the West Bank – despite the caption saying that it does !

    the caption says in quotes, “which excludes Gaza Strip and the West Bank.” Please read carefully because it is correct.

I couldn’t get the slideshow to work. Do you need something special to run it?

Interesting slideshow. However, one caption misses the mark: “Derech eretz (good manners) come before Torah. (City Center)
In a city rife with conflict over religious belief and practice, this graffiti artist reminds the viewer that the Torah is not as important as treating one another with respect.”

In the Jewish religious context, דרך ארץ קדמה לתורה means that earning a livelihood, or participating in the workaday world, is a precondition for studying Torah. So I would reword: “this graffiti artist reminds the viewer that the Torah is not as important as working for a living.”

Interesting slideshow. However, one caption misses the mark: “Derech eretz (good manners) come before Torah. (City Center)
In a city rife with conflict over religious belief and practice, this graffiti artist reminds the viewer that the Torah is not as important as treating one another with respect.”

In the Jewish religious context, דרך ארץ קדמה לתורה means that earning a livelihood, or participating in the workaday world, is a precondition for studying Torah. So I would reword: “this graffiti artist reminds the viewer that the Torah is not as important as working for a living.”

Interesting slideshow. However, one caption misses the mark: “Derech eretz (good manners) come before Torah. (City Center)
In a city rife with conflict over religious belief and practice, this graffiti artist reminds the viewer that the Torah is not as important as treating one another with respect.”

In the Jewish religious context, דרך ארץ קדמה לתורה means that earning a livelihood, or participating in the workaday world, is a precondition for studying Torah. So I would reword: “this graffiti artist reminds the viewer that the Torah is not as important as working for a living.”

I upgraded to the latest Flash Player, and now it works. BTW, the commentary is helpful. Grafiti that is understandable only to the initiated doesn’t say much.

I upgraded to the latest Flash Player, and now it works. BTW, the commentary is helpful. Grafiti that is understandable only to the initiated doesn’t say much.

I upgraded to the latest Flash Player, and now it works. BTW, the commentary is helpful. Grafiti that is understandable only to the initiated doesn’t say much.

I upgraded to the latest Flash Player, and now it works. BTW, the commentary is helpful. Grafiti that is understandable only to the initiated doesn’t say much.

I upgraded to the latest Flash Player, and now it works. BTW, the commentary is helpful. Grafiti that is understandable only to the initiated doesn’t say much.

I upgraded to the latest Flash Player, and now it works. BTW, the commentary is helpful. Grafiti that is understandable only to the initiated doesn’t say much.

I upgraded to the latest Flash Player, and now it works. BTW, the commentary is helpful. Grafiti that is understandable only to the initiated doesn’t say much.

I upgraded to the latest Flash Player, and now it works. BTW, the commentary is helpful. Grafiti that is understandable only to the initiated doesn’t say much.

I upgraded to the latest Flash Player, and now it works. BTW, the commentary is helpful. Grafiti that is understandable only to the initiated doesn’t say much.

I upgraded to the latest Flash Player, and now it works. BTW, the commentary is helpful. Grafiti that is understandable only to the initiated doesn’t say much.

I upgraded to the latest Flash Player, and now it works. BTW, the commentary is helpful. Grafiti that is understandable only to the initiated doesn’t say much.

I upgraded to the latest Flash Player, and now it works. BTW, the commentary is helpful. Grafiti that is understandable only to the initiated doesn’t say much.

Next we wait for the song Shirat Ha-Grafitti

ChicagoDC says:

The author of this article just wrote a fascinating book that tells the story of both sides through their political graffiit – not only in Jerusalem, but all over Israel and the West Bank. It is available for sale at this link: https://www.createspace.com/4059737?ref=1147694&utm_id=6026

Nachum says:

Whoever wrote the captions missed a few basic points:

1. Someone added a line to the Kahane graffiti calling him a “maniac”; it was then crossed out by someone else.

2. The Hatikvah has had one word scratched out at the bottom- possibly “Al Quds” or something.

3. “Derekh Eretz” in this case refers to working, as opposed to full time study.

4. The character of Walter Sobchak does, indeed, wield a gun in just that manner in the movie.

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Street Art in West Jerusalem

Photographs by Adam Heffez
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