Nathan A., a Spring 2016 student, is a junior from Dundas, Ontario. He is a member of Temple Anshe Shalom and is a long-time camper at Camp George. Recently, our Spring students went on a graffti tour of the Tel Aviv neighborhood of Florentin. Nathan describes the tour in detail, led by EIE teacher Aaron Gertz, and the unique graffiti that has appeared in the neighborhood.
The tour commences with an introduction of our first graffiti artist of the day, “Kislev”. Kislev is the most highly acclaimed graffiti artist in Tel Aviv, and has been given the moniker of the “Israeli Banksy” (Banksy is a world famous graffiti artist who focuses on political/social issues). The painting to the right illustrates an elf (Kislev) with spray can in hand, floating towards another elf (Banksy) while being carried via balloons of love. The works of Kislev are easily identified by his signature logo of an elf.
An interesting phenomenon in the graffiti community is prominent artists working together. An example of this is BabyK who is a Frenchmen, but his works are frequently found across Florentine. Likewise, there is a Polish group who painted a sickly looking animal to spell out “ospa” (plague). Tel Aviv is an attractive destination for groups of graffiti artists because there are no strict graffiti laws. Small fines are issued when caught and sometimes police officers will not even punish the artists. Here, Aaron told a story of an artist, whom when caught, simply explained to the authorities the art he was creating and was left in peace for its completion. As a result, other than New York City, Berlin, and London, Tel Aviv has become one of the most pursued canvases for graffiti in the world.
During the remainder of the tour I will be guiding you through eight significant pieces of graffiti and some of their respective artists. There is an artist that goes by the name Dede who did a collaborative piece with his friend Wonky. Wonky is known for his depictions of strange looking monkeys and Dede is known for using Band-Aids; these Band-Aids are a metaphor for not being able to completely fix emotional scars. Dede’s service in the combat unit of the Israeli army, where he had to deal with difficult situations, lead to this re-occurring theme in his artwork.
A unique graffiti style is that of Vered Dror, who uses braille. This type of artwork originated from when Vered was in Zagreb, Croatia for a graffiti competition. After days of planning her masterpiece for the competition, she noticed public places vandalized with swastikas painted on them. Vered Dror asked several locals why nobody was cleaning these horrific symbols up and everyone answered by simply saying “I didn’t notice”. Outraged, she abandoned her previous plan for the graffiti competition and placed all around the city a single statement in braille: “I didn’t notice, I didn’t see a thing”. Vered went on to unanimously win the competition.
Graffiti artists in Tel Aviv are very proud of their city. As a result, an artist’s pride is often reflected in one’s art work. For example, MAS972 is a graffiti artist whose name (972) is the country code dialed when calling Israel. Also, 035 (either 03 or 05) is the landline number for Tel Aviv whose work can be easily spotted all around the city.
On a side note, due to the large gay community in Tel Aviv, graffiti expressing gay pride is not an unusual sight. One of the wittier pieces is an image depicting Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street embracing each other saying “Hi kids, we are getting married!”
As we approach the conclusion of the graffiti tour there is a focus on political art. Among these is an image depicting the assassination of Yizhak Rabin, a former Prime Minister of Israel, and illustrating the crosshairs of the sniper on his head. The painting was created in Yitzhak’s honor and commemoration. In another place, you can find a slogan relating to conflict between Jews and Arabs. When first sprayed, the slogan translated to “Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies” יהודים וערבים מסרבים להיות אויבים, However, someone vandalized it to say “Jews and Arabs are enemies” יהודים וערבים בטח אויבים. Later, one of EIE’s Jewish History teachers, Evan, changed it again to say “Jews and Arabs are not enemies” יהודים וערבים לא אויבי. Good job Evan!
The remainder of the day was spent learning about cultural Zionism, the revival of Hebrew, and Jewish identity in Israel through viewing giant mosaics, a model of Tel Aviv, and doing a street survey. Tel Aviv is a beautiful city and I thank you for joining us on our graffiti tour!