Members of the Garden Library in Tel Aviv utilize public spaces and social networks to engage neighbors across ethnic, political, socioeconomic and religious divides. They believe that focusing on accessible art and literacy creates a non-threatening platform for community building…
Images via the Garden Library’s Facebook
Street Art in Tel Aviv
Band Aid pieces by Dede
Poem #1: “You asked me to write you on the wall/you asked me to paint the city with you.” (In Hebrew it rhymes with a playful yet striking lilt.)
Poem #2: “If I treasure a green branch in my heart/the song bird will arrive.”
Jewish Ghetto in Rome, Italy. Photos by Omri Dotan and Leigh
Sculptures from “Game of Cultures” by DARIO TIRONI & KOJI YOSHIDA at the Galleria Angelica, connected to Angelica Library in Rome. The library was established in 1604 and was recently listed by Flavorwire as one of the world’s most beautiful libraries.
The hostel in Perugia was once the Borgias mansion, home to one of the most infamous families of the Italian renaissance. Lucrezia Borgias had a personal feud with a noted Umbrian mystic, Columba of Rieti, and their deviant history is replete with legends of magic and miracles. Today the hostel is also home to the multilingual library of a local Catholic holy man, which has recently opened to the public…
Read more in my column "Libraries, Galleries and Hostels in Italy."
Photos by Omri Dotan & Leigh
Strolling through Florentin, the street art splattered across the buildings contain some of the most salient political art in Tel Aviv. These public works feature scathing criticism of the Israeli government and religious establishment. They reveal frustrations and disappointments with Zionism, sometimes even despair.
One of my favorites is a stencil image of Theodor Herzl, his prominent beard and direct gaze. This profile floats above a twist on his famous Zionist saying: “If you want it, it is not a myth.” That quote is the “I have a dream” of Israel; every child knows it. But beneath the painted image of Herzl in Florentin the Hebrew words read: “If you don’t want it, you don’t get it.”
This piece appeared after the failure of 2011’s tent protests and the return to a status quo in Israel, without peace negotiations or social justice.
Just a few streets away, a monkey with sad eyes holds a skull in his unclenched palm. He gazes out at the viewer asking the timeless question: “To be, or not to be?” But the way his lips part softly, as if is about to release an exhausted sigh, implies that he has no hope the answer will bring him a solution.
There are also pieces of street art in Florentin which reference the Jewish people’s history of suffering racism, reframing these same slogans and images to address Israel’s current situation. Painted on an old stone house, below a line of prose written in braille, is a small figure which plays on the seminal Holocaust image of a young boy from the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. His small hands are raised in the air, “Don’t deport me” painted beneath him.
Other pieces also refer to the Israeli government with Nazi imagery. After the military operation in Gaza in 2012, new images appeared on the streets of Florentin. They criticized the IDF [Israeli military] in particular. Deep inside Florentin’s urban labyrinth is a spray-painted outline of an ultra-Orthodox Jewish man with long earlocks, reading from a prayer book and facing Tel Aviv. His back is to Jerusalem, the sacred capital of Israel, cornerstone of both Judaism and Zionist aspirations. This subtle twist in the image alludes to the cultural divide between the two cities.
Israel’s street art reveals the vast disparity between government actions and the sentiment of Israeli young people in Tel Aviv. And it’s quite a beautiful way to read. The poem featured above was written by a street artist named Nitzan. To read more about her art, check out my article at the Green Prophet.
Images by Omri Dotan & Leigh
Florentin, Tel Aviv
Photos by Omri Dotan & Leigh
Hot milk, 3 spoons of salep. Stir. Add cinnamon, coconut shavings, tiny chunks of caramelized nuts. Start the day.
Photo by Leigh
More Israel. Photos by Omri Dotan.
Givatayim’s legendary eggplant-maker, Oved Daniel, recently opened up a new restaurant in Tel Aviv. Sabich has its roots in Israel’s Iraqi community. It is a traditional Baghdadi breakfast dish, consisting of fried eggplant, Arabic salad, parsley, fresh onion and a baked or boiled egg. Sabich emerged as a national sensation in the 1960’s…
Read more at the Green Prophet
Syrian poet Maram al-Massri
[from her book of poetry: “Red Cherry on a White Tile Floor”]
Whenever my heart
hears a knocking
it opens its doors.
Russian poet Vera Pavlova
[from her book of poetry: “If There is Something to Desire: One Hundred Poems”]
I broke your heart.
Now barefoot I tread
Emily Dickinson’s poem “I’m Nobody,” set to music by Israeli singer Efrat Ben Zur
Irish poet Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill
The Language Issue:
I place my hope on the water
in this little boat
of the language, the way a body might put
in a basket of intertwined
its underside proofed
with bitumen and pitch,
then set the whole thing down amidst
and bulrushes by the edge
of a river
only to have it hither and thither,
not knowing where it might end up;
in the lap, perhaps,
of some Pharaoh’s daughter.
Image of Juana via Creative Commons
Self-taught scholar and collector of indigenous musical instruments, Juana Inés de la Cruz, the first Mexican poet.
Indian poet Kamala Surayya, i.e. Kamala Das, known for her fiery verses and honest, autobiographical words about female sexuality.
American poet Maya Angelou.
You can read her snarky poem “The Health-Food Diner,” and my reflections on her amazing work in this article published by Alimentum Journal: The Literature of Food.