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Wednesday, January 07, 2009

"Tagging" Ain't Just for Facebook!





To my displeasure, the walls of Jerusalem (and much of the rest of Israel) are covered in graffiti. My reaction is often to not pay attention at all or sigh over the misuse of a beautiful white wall of Jerusalem-stone. But I've noticed if you look a little deeper you will see many reoccurring patterns within the teenage (I pray they're only teenagers) markings. The most common one of course is the "Na Nach Nachma Nachman M'uman" tag of the dope-smoking hippies that fancy themselves some sort of modern breakaway group of Breslov Chassidim.

A new one that has been popping up all over the place in the last two weeks or so though is "Style Wars 2." At first I didn't think much of it, but as I saw it over and over again I started to get more curious. Could it have to do something with Star Wars? I understand every other group of people seems to lay some sort of claim to the holy city but now Star Wars nerds too!? I did an internet search on it and it turns out that Style Wars was the name of a PBS documentary done on urban culture and specifically spray paint graffiti. Now why they have started to spray Style Wars 2 everywhere is beyond me, unless it is some sort of grassroots promotion for a sequel. Also popping up is an interesting one that says something to the effect of "Joker love 42" or something like that. It always seems to feature arrows coming out the the ends of the letters which seems kind of neat I guess.

A more classic one I've seen for over a year now is "Homo = Ill" or some slight variant of it. The funny thing is that wherever somebody has written it, 90% of the time somebody has come around later, crossed out the word "Homo" and replaced it with word "bigot." My mind's eye pictures some rainbow flag bearing spray paint can toting hippie following closely behind some angry right wing punk, each tip-toeing so as to not arouse the attention of police-calling neighbors.

Another common one is the "Am Yisrael Chai" (the nation of Israel lives on) which always includes a Magen David, and every now and then you'll even see a "Mavet l'aravim" (Death to the arabs) painted on a stairwell or alleyway wall. But if you really want a treat I recommend going on Yaffo Street across from the Shuk and checking out the building that has beautiful calligraphy of Jerusalem in both Hebrew and English written across an entire wall. Whether you like it or not, the graffiti seems to pop up everywhere in Jerusalem, but at least you can't complain that they don't keep it interesting.

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