Israel, Justice, Politics, Sex & Gender

Hatred in the City of Peace

From guest contributor TheWanderingJew:
I have never taken for granted the fact that I was raised in Canada, in the big cities, to liberal parents. Some of my earliest memories involve one of my parents’ gay friends who helped my nanny take care of me when my parents were on vacation in Europe: He picked me up, on a weekend morning, and took me to my pottery lessons. After my class, before returning me to my home, he bought me ice cream. This was a huge deal: it was not yet noon, and I had not yet had lunch. In my family, dessert was for special occasions, and we certainly weren’t allowed sweets before lunch! At the ripe old age of 4, I didn’t know what “gay” meant, but I knew that adults used that word when referring to this family friend and his housemates (I later clued in that they were two gay couples sharing a house). So in my young mind, I equated “gay” with “sweet before lunch” which meant “cool.” A formative experience, to be sure. I went on to attend both elementary school and high school, in different cities, with queer teachers of different genders, and at least twice had students in my class whose gender (to this day) remains unknown. All of this was fully accepted, encouraged, and supported. It wasn’t a big deal when I came out; the first pride parade I marched in was captured on film by my math teacher and her partner, who cheered as I walked by with an LGBTQ youth group.
Which isn’t to say that my life has been untouched by homophobia. I was once attacked by a group of guys, who shouted homophobic slurs as they took their swings and kicks. I lived in a small town where homophobia was as “natural” as drinking beer. Once while sucking a popsicle in my car, another driver shouted “faggot” as he passed me by (okay, that one might have been called for!).
But I’ve written those off as isolated incidents that were few and far between. I was able to balance them with the activism and volunteer work I was doing to educate my communities on issues relating to homophobia, heterosexism, heterocentrism, transphobia, and more. Work I’ve been doing for more than half my life.
Living in Jerusalem, however, I’m having a hard time compartmentalizing, pushing down, the rampant homophobia. It started my first day in Jerusalem, walking from Rehavia to Mahane Yehuda. Scribbled on a paper recycling bin was “homo = ill,” “homo = filthy,” and “homo = dog.” I was shocked. In a city where destruction (or amelioration) of public property, through graffiti and stencil art, for political statement or “just” art, was the norm, I couldn’t believe that no one had challenged this message. As I continued my exploration of the city, I found that this message was repeated on paper recycling bins, electricity boxes, telephone poles, walls, gas metre boxes, and other public places, not just in Rehavia, but in Baka, Nachlot, Katamon, Germany Colony, city centre and Ben Yehuda, and more. I was able to determine that the hatred was all being written by the same hand.
I quickly devised a plan, supported by friends, to correct the graffiti. We started carrying permanent markers with us and changing the message from “homo = ill” to “homophobia = ill.” But the more we changed, the more we had to change. On streets where I had corrected every then-marked-up spot, a second walk a few days later would reveal new, bolder, places where the hatred was being displayed. And tonight I noticed that some of my corrections had been amended. “Homo very dangerous for children.”
I feel like I’m loosing this fight. I could keep writing messages back, correcting what has now been written to counter my anti-homophobia corrections, but it’s becoming overwhelming. This individual clearly has a lot of time on his/her hands, and I almost feel like I’m being watched or followed as I walk around making these corrections.
If you’re in Jerusalem, I implore you to take a sharpie in hand and correct them as you see them (or just cross them out). It’s exhausting living in a city where messages of hate are scribbled everywhere I look, and even more exhausting feeling like no difference is being made. If things don’t turn around soon, I think I’ll be taking this story to the press.

7 thoughts on “Hatred in the City of Peace

  1. And then there are the swastikas on those same graffiti. I’ve been crossing it all out with a thick black marker. Someone else has been drawing over “homo” to spell “bomb”.
    I may have run into the author, or at least someone who feels the same way. Many of these graffiti are on Rechov Emek Refaim (although I too have seen them all over town), and one night there I heard a rant from a “hilltop youth” types about how there were all these “homos” and Arabs walking freely on the street.
    I also found a post on threatening to protest the next Gay Pride Parade by blocking restaurants on the same street. I didn’t exactly understand why, maybe it’s because the parade ended not far from that street this year, perhaps the poster went there to eat dinner after a hard day of shouting homophobic slogans and encountered some of the people who he had earlier been harassing, and maybe he then discovered that the other patrons, even those with kippot, didn’t share his revulsion. So I’m wondering if there’s an idea out among the homophobic racists of the extreme right that Emek Refaim is full of homosexuals, leftists, and all sorts of other people to whom they feel superior.

  2. Warren,
    I have seen swastikas and other Nazi-related graffiti around town, however none of the graffiti I’m describing above has swastikas on it. (I believe I mentioned the Emek Refaim area (I called it German Colony) in the above post.) I agree that it’s a problem, and if I see any that you’re describing I will, of course, amend it. But while the graffiti I’m talking about (and included pictures of) was done by one guy, I think yours is by another individual. (*sigh* too many haters!)

  3. When I was in Jerusalem this summer I also noticed it. Disgusting. I was there before the gay pride march, and there were also disgusting posters put up (to protest the march) with the slogan “God hates æéîä” – but then one of the posters on Emek Refaim St. was corrected to say “God hates ùéðà” (God hates hatred”).

  4. ùðàä
    (sorry, compulsive hebrew corrector here)
    My favorite bumpersticker from my last visit to Jersualem, on the laptop computer of a good-looking, kippah-clad fellow who’d sit in a coffee shop near my brother’s old apartment:
    “Yesh Lanu Ahava Vehi Tenatzeach”*
    (on a rainbow, not an orange, background)
    *originally the slogan of the Gaza settlers, but here recontextualized – “We have Love and it will be victorious”

  5. what is your opinion on the pro-gay graffiti that was painting during the parade on agrippas street and all over jerusalem that depicted two jerusalem lions having anal sex? what do you think about the graffiti in the jerusalem central bus station bathrooms and other public restrooms that read “meet me here tuesday” and offering gay sexual acts.

  6. I’m not sure I’d call animal porno graffiti “pro-gay”….more like “let’s piss off people”. Of course, I admire graffiti that pisses people off.
    As for “meet me here tuesday”, that’s homophobic graffiti if I ever heard one. If those poor closetted charedim were allowed by society to lead healthy open lives with a same-sex partner in love and companionship, they wouldn’t be trying to get off anonymously in bathrooms and parks in a futile attempt to fill what’s missing in their lives with dangerous sex. (ref: Senator Craig)

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