Jerusalem residents transform hate into hope

Concerned parents and children cover anti-Arab graffiti with message of love.

By
April 13, 2017 23:11
2 minute read.
CHILDREN who live near Jerusalem’s Mekor Chaim Park took up the call to paint a tarp on Wednesday, t

CHILDREN who live near Jerusalem’s Mekor Chaim Park took up the call to paint a tarp on Wednesday, to cover up anti-Arab graffiti. It reads in Hebrew: ‘We love our neighbors.’. (photo credit: COURTESY ILANA NELSON)

 
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Less than three hours after anti-Arab graffiti was spray-painted on a wall in Mekor Chaim Park, a beloved community oasis located at the intersection of the Katamon, Beit Safafa and Baka neighborhoods, Jewish residents of the area sought to demonstrate that tolerance remains a powerful force in the capital.

Shortly after 7:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Ilana Nelson, 39, a mother of three, whose children attend the nearby Max Rayne Hand in Hand School for Arab and Jewish children, said she was horrified at the sight of hateful Hebrew words.

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“Death to Arabs,” “Arabs go home,” “We want revenge,” “Kahane was right” and a Star of David were scrawled by the entrance to the scenic park, adjacent to boarded-over railroad tracks in the residential area.

“My neighbor was walking by in the morning and saw the graffiti and posted it on Facebook, and wrote: ‘Who wants to paint?’ to cover it up,” said Nelson on Thursday.

“By the time we were ready to paint over it, the municipality already power-washed the graffiti off the wall, which was great, but we decided to show that as residents of the neighborhood we don’t agree with those kinds of racist remarks.”

Noting the pride the community members take in the inclusive nature of the park, Nelson said she and her children nonetheless took two green tarps from their nearby home and decided to paint “We love our neighbors” and “Love is the whole story” in colorful Hebrew letters.

“My nine-year-old son, who has studied at the bilingual school since fourth grade, also wrote it in Arabic below the Hebrew for our Arab neighbors,” said Nelson with clear pride.

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“We came out to do the painting at 10:30 a.m. to hang it over the spot where the graffiti was removed, but my friend then called me and said there was more anti-Arab graffiti in another nearby park with the remark ‘Death to Arabs,’ so we took one of the tarps there to cover that up.”

Despite their good will, later on Wednesday night, Nelson said a neighbor witnessed a young male ultra-Orthodox man riding an electric bike down the boarded train tracks adjacent to the park tear the tarp off the wall.

When confronted, the unidentified man told the neighbor that he wanted to avenge his brother, who was recently beaten by Arabs.

“So, when he left, she just hung it up again,” Nelson said.

“The beauty of this park is that it intersects where a Jewish and Arab neighborhood meet, and is a natural meeting place where people of all backgrounds and socioeconomic statuses gather,” she said.

“It’s normal to see kids playing around, speaking in Arabic, and women wearing hijabs going for power walks, and it’s a little oasis in a city where there is a lot of tension and alienation between groups. So, this is our opportunity to have a normal life, and [a place] where it’s OK for people of all backgrounds to just share some space.”

Nelson added: “We all have a right to live equally in the city, which belongs to all of us, and we have to learn how to share it with respect, understanding and friendship.”

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