Hebrew Hear-Say: You can stick(er) it

In Israel, bumper stickers are so prevalent that writer David Grossman composed a popular song simply by compiling a long list.

Hebrew Hear-Say logo (photo credit: )
Hebrew Hear-Say logo
(photo credit: )
On a trip to New York many years ago, I developed a theory that the reason there were so many slogan T-shirts was the "avoid eye contact" mentality of the Big Apple. Why staring at someone's chest should be considered less provocative, in either sense, beats me. Slogans in Israel tend to be sported on cars rather than people. Bumper stickers are so prevalent that writer David Grossman composed a popular song simply by compiling a long list, sung rapper-style by Hadag Nahash. "Shir Hastickerim" ("The stickers song") includes most of the best (and worst) sayings on the street from "Dor shalem doresh shalom" ("A whole generation demands peace") to "Hakol biglalcha haver" ("It's all your fault, friend"), a play on Bill Clinton's "Shalom, haver" speech at Yitzhak Rabin's funeral, which itself became a sticker supreme. Grossman reportedly started collecting the slogans a few days after the assassination when he came across a motorist scrubbing away at a sticker reading "Rabin rotzeah" ("Rabin is a murderer"). During the 1996 post-Rabin election campaign, I saw a young man go up to a parked car and start scraping away with a box cutter at a pro-Shimon Peres sticker. In a move I wouldn't recommend to anyone in New York facing a man armed with what we call a sakin yapani (Japanese knife), I boldly went up to the guy and told him: "You can't do that!" "Why not?" came the response. "It's my car..." I wonder if after the elections, he stuck the "Ani loozer?" sticker ("Am I a loser?") that recalled the rhetorical question that Peres probably wishes he'd never asked. During a fact-finding tour in Gaza, I once saw a Palestinian driving a presumably stolen van smothered with stickers saying: "Yesha, zeh kan" ("Judea, Samaria and Gaza are here"), "Hevron me'az u'mitamid" ("Hebron, then and forever") and "Ha'am im Hagolan" ("The people are with the Golan"). Maybe there should be a special sticker: "The slogans on this vehicle do not necessarily reflect the views of the owner." It wouldn't surprise me if a "Yehudi lo megaresh Yehudi" sticker ("a Jew doesn't expel another Jew" - one of the catchphrases of the disengagement protesters) is still going around Hamas-controlled Gaza City. "Sderot lo levad" ("Sderot is not alone") now features on many cars in my Jerusalem neighborhood. Another popular sticker in the 'hood warns: "Al ta'atzben oti - ani ohed Betar" ("Don't make me mad, I'm a Betar fan") alluding to the common perception of Betar Jerusalem football club fans. The recent slogan that gave me the closest I have come to road rage - and I don't even have a car - is splashed across a battered-looking vehicle which parks close to the Post's building and preaches: "Banot tznuot mon'ot ason" "Modest girls prevent disasters." Which leaves open the question of just who causes disasters in the first place: A woman who exposes her elbow or guys who think they know it all? "Kama ro'a efsher livlo'a" ("How much evil can you swallow") as the refrain of Shir Hastickerim puts it (a protest against force-feeding geese for pate foie gras, by the way). Some of the country's best known slogans are evergreen: In an Independence Day issue - around the time when many drivers dutifully stuck "Israel 60" emblems on their doors and windows - Yediot Yerushalayim compiled a list of the sayings which have stuck: from 1948's "Kol ha'aretz hazit, kol ha'am tzava" ("The whole country is the front, the entire people is the army") to the 2006 Lebanon II slogan "Anahnu nenatzeah" ("We will win"). This in itself faintly echoes the intifada-period slogan: "Tnu letzahal lenatzeah" ("Let the IDF win"). Periodically, the "Mush'hatim nimastem" ("We're fed up with the corrupt") that originally drove out Mapai reappears on the cars of a people still being driven crazy by the antics of its leaders. It's been used by both Likud and Labor. Whatever you do, don't try to wash off the timeless "Haval al kol tipa" ("It's a shame to waste a drop") urging the public to save water. And "Hasber panecha latayar" ("Be nice to a tourist") is still a nice sentiment. The final word should go, perhaps, to the late finance minister Yigael Hurvitz whose anti-inflation program gave birth to a classic that has undergone several incarnations since 1980: "Meshugaim, redu mehagag" ("Crazy guys, get down from the roof"). Stick with us. Anahnu nenatzeah. [email protected]