Walking around Tel Aviv I feel like I'm reading a coded newspaper -
I hope to translate some of it in here, and do my best to explain context and meaning.
Now, take this guy here -
This is Zeev Jabotinsky, one of the founders of the state of Israel. The text reads "קשה ז"א אפשר"
which translates as 'Hard means Possible'.
This corresponds with this guy here below - Hertzel.
The text on Herzels' graffiti says "לא רוצים לא צריך"'. It roughly translates as 'You don't want it - well, never mind then'. At least that's the spirit of it. Imagine please an old Polish Grandma saying it, like "I'll just sit here in the dark". It was all over Tel Aviv a couple of years ago.
The reason this is so outrageous is because it's the opposite sentiment of Herzel's original phrase "אם תרצו אין זו אגדה" - 'If you want - it is not fiction'.
He said it about creating the state of Israel, and an entire generation - my grandparents and my parents too, lived by that idea.
The "don't want" graffiti is funny at first, hilarious even.
I laughed out loud first time I saw it, and it went viral on the internet.
But then it's really sad.
The "If you wish" generation felt they can achieve anything - my generation is feeling positively stuck.
It made me wonder when the Jabotinsky Graffiti - "Hard means Possible" arrived. Jabotinsky was the spiritual father of the Likud Party, the ruling party in Israel for the past decade or so. Who is spraying graffiti supporting the government? And in Liberal left wing Tel Aviv? This city did not vote for this guy.
Both these messages can be read as cynical but positive - "get off your ass" sentiments, or cynical but negative, defeatist.
Probably it's all somebody's idea of a joke, and all these meanings that I read into them are just a reflection of my own life, but isn't that exactly what art is supposed to do?
I've marked the graffiti in A-B-C, here's the translation:
A picture and a quote - Bibi Netanyahu, Prime minister of Israel:
"In a country where women sit in the cockpit (of fighter jets), Women can sit anywhere."
This was when the ultra-orthodox Haredim thought for a moment that they could force women to sit at the back of the bus.
"Shababa was right"
A reggae take-off on a right wing extremist group. Kind of funny, really.
"Money from mother is not something to be ashamed of"
Cost of living in Israel, and in Tel Aviv in particular, is rising and rising. Many people my age are having a hard time, financially.
"A revolution from my ass"
This is part of the flourishing LGBT culture in Tel Aviv, which is an extremely liberal city.
"Junk Shui", "Fuck Shui", "Punk Shui"
"It's mine, from home"
Origami Swan. 35/1000. Makes me wonder if there really are a thousand swans in Tel Aviv :-)
This graffiti is about the 2011 "tent protest" that got half a million people out on the streets, protesting about the rising cost of living.
This showed up on the wall of the corner building in front of Habima square, right where the protest started.
It's no longer there - it's a beautiful renovated Bauhaus Style building, and it's smooth white walls are a constant battle ground between graffiti writers and a bucket of white paint.
The pictograms depict the chain of events that led to the huge "Social Justice" protest in Israel in the summer of 2011.
I was there.
The last part, the burning man, I suspect was penciled in by someone other than the original Writer. This never happened.
We saw the so called "Arab Spring" all around us, but no one in Israel burned themselves in protest.
Much of the Graffiti in Israel is Text-based.
I think it's a result of a culture where creating an image of god is forbidden - and therefore developed its texts more than its images.
I have a confession – I can't stand those "Na -Nach-Nachman- Me-uman" written all over EVERYTHING. Walls, bridges, barns by the side of the road. Bumper stickers, banners, big and small. They cover the whole country with it, and it's become oppressive.
Religious oppression in Israel is a real thing. These na-nachs everywhere are, to me, a visual manifestation of it. Whenever I see them I'm reminded that I'm a secular, liberal woman living in a country where people die for god.
The origin of the phrase is all good intentions, of course. But I don't like it getting in my face like that.
If you walk around the city long enough, you'll start recognising some of the artists.