Ensnared by the lure of street art

There is a new force to be reckoned with in the underground world of graffiti.

Snare’s most famous piece, ‘The Alef Man,’ in the neighborhood of Nahlaot. (photo credit: ARIEL HENDELMAN)
Snare’s most famous piece, ‘The Alef Man,’ in the neighborhood of Nahlaot.
(photo credit: ARIEL HENDELMAN)
You’ve seen his murals adorning the walls of Nahlaot and other Jerusalem neighborhoods. You noticed his art because it stands out from the typical, hastily done graffiti tags covering the Mahaneh Yehuda and central bus station areas. You just didn’t know his name – until now.
There is a new force to be reckoned with in the underground world of street art, and his name is Snare.
When asked why he chose that particular name, Snare responds that while in the past he has had many monikers, when he realized he was addicted to graffiti it felt as though it had ensnared him. Once it grabbed hold, he started seeing things differently. Like a soldier who is trained by the army to always look out for potential threats, Snare is always looking out for the next wall to paint.
Also, of course, the way the name is written and the style of the letters was a major factor: the curvature of the “S,” the “A” in the middle to balance it out, the “E” at the end.
Snare may not be his given name, but it is the one that has made him famous on the streets of Jerusalem.
SNARE HAD his first taste of graffiti when he was 12 or 13. He was living in Judea and Samaria at the time and had gotten into trouble with friends at school. After being disciplined by the principal, he and his friends were angry, like any typical group of young teenage boys.
However, unlike most teens, they decided to graffiti the outside of the school.
This became the initial rush that got Snare hooked on street art.
He only started bombing (heavy street painting) recently. Now he paints everywhere: all over Israel and in Jerusalem.
Living in Nahlaot for a while, Snare spent most of his time painting murals. After about a year, he returned one day and realized that most of them had been painted over.
He says emphatically, “I saw all these walls that I had put all this time and effort into, as well as my own money, and they were gone with a few sloppy flicks of white paint.”
At the time, he assumed it was the municipality, but it recently came to light it was the work of just one Nahlaot resident.
Snare says angrily, “It’s really disgraceful. He paints over murals and leaves the tags two meters down the wall.”
In actuality, Snare has permission to paint 90 percent of his murals. He is also extremely respectful when it comes to Jerusalem stone and never touches it, believing it to be more beautiful on its own. Not to mention the hefty NIS 500 fine per stone if a graffiti artist is caught (because the surface must then be sandblasted).
Ironically, it was actually a reaction to his murals being painted over that prompted Snare to jump head-first into the deep end of the graffiti pool. He was so upset when his large paintings began disappearing that his only solace was to get heavily into bombing.
He explains, “It’s far less destructive than beating someone up. I just went out, got drunk and started bombing. It was really out of anger; I took it all out on the walls.”
For Snare, getting bombed on alcohol and painting is the ultimate emotional outlet. He came to realize on these late nights out, painting the streets of Israel, that most people don’t care if you cover their walls in paint – as long as you are making something beautiful. Art and vandalism are not the same thing, though of course the lines sometimes get blurred.
As such, Snare has had run-ins with the law and altercations with homeowners who were not fans of his artwork. But for the most part, the reactions he receives from people are positive.
THE QUESTION of why an artist would want to go the graffiti route is a valid one.
There is always the looming threat of impermanence from others painting over your work, as well as from the streets themselves, which don’t always make the most lasting canvas. But there is also the beauty of making art that is truly free and for everyone, as street art is ownerless.
Snare says, “I find that many people aren’t able to let go of themselves because they’re so chained down with stuff that doesn’t even really matter: money, social standing, outward appearance. This has been the main subject of my art. I paint for the people; that’s why it’s in the street. It’s public.”
Growing up in London, Snare had graffiti role models in local crews Ahead of the Game (ATG) and Burning Candy (BC). And other big names in London street art such as Mighty Mo, Sweet Tooth and Cyclops had really funky pieces that inspired Snare to try his hand. Although he never had the chance to meet them in person, their art was a constant reminder to him that you can accomplish a lot with just a little paint and passion.
“I’ve always loved art, and I’ve always been a bit of a rebel, so it was natural to mix the two,” he says.
Comparing the graffiti scene in London to the one in Jerusalem, Snare says it’s much friendlier in Israel. In England, he felt like a lone wolf. When he was younger, he saw a crew beat up another street artist just to steal his paint. The cutthroat nature of the British graffiti culture may be due to the fact that legal penalties are more severe there, with much longer jail sentences.
“In England, most people see graffiti as vandalism, but in my humble opinion it’s not,” Snare opines. “Going to someone’s house and smashing their windows is vandalism.”
When asked about his favorite project, Snare has a difficult time answering because he is constantly trying to outdo himself with every new piece. He believes if you’re not going forward, then you’re not going anywhere. As such, Snare is a staunch believer that in order for the holy city to progress, it should look to its street artists and promote and encourage them.
In fact, Snare would be a particularly good artist for the city to showcase, as he is a religious Jew. The only other religious graffiti artist that he knows of is the man behind the more elaborate “Na Nah Nahma Nahman” pieces. They occasionally go out together, painting and learning Torah simultaneously.
Snare says, “I think it goes hand in hand because, like Torah, graffiti is everywhere. It’s not limited.”
Perhaps his most famous piece is the mural in Nahlaot known as “The Alef Man.”
Snare believes that the first letter in the Hebrew alphabet symbolizes everything: the heavens, earth and in-between; ahava [love], ahdut [Jewish unity] and Elokim [God]. The still-unfinished mural is viewed by hundreds of people daily.
Snare explains, “I’ve seen tour guides with groups talking about it, but they have no idea what it’s really about. I tried to make it pretty obvious. On one side I wrote ‘ruhniut’ (spirituality); the other side is ‘gashmiut’ (materialism). The Alef Man is a young man who has his head in the right place because he understands that God runs the world. He has a choice now of which path to take, and he’s stuck in the middle. The path of ruhniut and the path of gashmiut don’t really mix. Of course, there are wealthy spiritualists, but humility is a wealth of its own.”
If humility means realizing that nothing belongs to us, then the street artist is truly the most humble of all.
Snare would like to give a big shout-out to some of the other graffiti artists who keep the streets of Israel colorful: INSPIRE, KAVOD, ACK, EPK, ANGEL, DAN PLASMA, MAS and NACOS.