L’havdil: B’nai Brak and Tel Aviv

We began our day in the very insulated ultra-Orthodox community of B’nai Brak in order to visit Chaim’s brother. We then walked to the cemetery to visit Chaim’s mother’s (and grandmother’s) gravesites. Chaim and I were both pleasantly surprised that, except for one child who stared at me, no one in that community seemed bothered by the fact that I was wearing pants rather than a skirt. (I had braced myself for rude comments, sneers, and my own righteous indignation in response!)

Chaim with his brother Tzvi. It was an emotional reunion.

A collection of tzedakah boxes on the wall outside the cemetery (euphemistically called a Beit Chayim, a House of Life). Tzedakah boxes were also planted all over town like skinny mailboxes with slots  (like the tall yellow one in the photo).

I was excited to see a street named for Rav Eliyahu Dessler, author of the Mussar text Michtav Eliyahu. Among other teachings, Dessler is the one who brings the idea of bechira (choice) points to Mussar practice.

We travelled from the world of B’nai Brak to the very different world of South Tel Aviv (Florentine) to take a tour of street art/graffiti with Guy Sharett of TLV1’s fun and informative “Streetwise Hebrew” podcast (for those who want to improve their spoken and slang Hebrew skills). He advertises this tour on the podcast, and we were very excited to take part! We learned about street art, architecture, Hebrew slang, linguistics, and contemporary Israeli culture. We also learned about the acceptance (or not) of street art. While some landlords enforce its removal as an illegal act of vandalism, others welcome it. We also saw examples of different artists responding to each other, or collaborating, on the same walls.

Here’s Guy pointing out a tactile “petting zoo” on the corner of a building, with different textures one can touch.

Theodor Herzl as hipster.

Portrayal of Rabin’s assassination, based on a photograph. The middle arrow points at Rabin, and the one at the right to his murderer Igal Amir. The community fought against the removal of this piece of street art.

We learned the names of some of the regular street artists and how to identify them: They tend to sign in English so they can be easily found on Instagram or Facebook and gain a following: Frenemy, Murielle Street Art, Dedes, Sened, #Miss-Question-Mark, and so many others. Some are playful, some political.  269Life posts PETA-type graffiti, like a picture of a cow that said “I died for your sins” and another that read “Shoes are murder.”

Another one I liked was “If I forget you, Jerusalem, it will be because of Tel Aviv” (in Hebrew), a linguistic piece of street art that plays on the Biblical text from Psalm 137. But in this particular case, a disgruntled Jerusalemite perhaps (or someone disturbed by changing the traditional text) took umbrage, because the second, non-Biblical, clause was blotted out.

“Without fear, without regret, know that it’s in your power to change the world.”

This artist who calls himself “Ometz” (Courage) is an ultra-Orthodox father living a double life as a middle-of-the-night street artist. Notice the narrow and tenuous bridge he walks in this piece of art.

Street art which is mocking our street art tour. This foreign woman (“Berlin” is written on her purse) is either taking a selfie of herself as art or photographing the street art on the other side of the window (not pictured because I couldn’t get a big enough view.)

A wall containing pieces by multiple artists, including Bob Dylan’s song lyric transliterated into Hebrew: “Knock, knock, knocking on heaven’s doors” with devils, above which is a work by an artist who “contemporizes” classical pieces. In this one, the little girl is frustrated that she hasn’t received any Facebook messages.

It’s been difficult to decide which photos to actually post in this blog as there are so many wonderful examples to choose from. You should know that I have chosen G-rated images only, though I could have added some X-rated possibilities.

Not street art, per se, but all over Tel Aviv, as well as in Haifa and everywhere else we’ve travelled, we have seen loads of signs protesting the proposed deportation of the African asylum seekers from Israel. There will be a big rally in Tel Aviv Saturday night against the deportations, and as I wrote about previously, my friend Rabbi Susan Silverman started an organization to help hide refugees in danger of being deported.

This one says “Help: This deportation kills.” We saw one earlier that said “Deportation is a sin.”

This is a neighborhood of small businesses and workshops. For all I knew this cutie is on the wall of a plumbing business.

Back in Haifa, I saw this on the side of a garbage can. (I could do a post just on painted garbage cans!)


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