In Israel, four stunning murals have been dedicated to the people of Iran who are still fighting against their oppressive regime. But who is the man behind these murals?
Since the start of January, Hooman Khalili has been tirelessly working and traveling back and forth between Israel and Los Angeles organizing, designing and executing graffiti murals across Israel.
Born in Tehran in 1974, Hooman and his mother fled Iran six months before the revolution. Using a high school connection, Hooman’s mother escaped to the United States with her three-year-old, a suitcase and a small amount of cash.
Growing up in California, Hooman worked as a radio DJ in San Francisco and produced films in which he worked with high-profile figures in Hollywood, like Dolly Parton, who wrote the music for one of his films.
As a practicing Christian, Hooman visited Israel with the Jewish Community Relations Council, where he was invited as a radio and entertainment influencer and was exposed to what he describes as the beauty and complexity of the country.
Making art after the protests sparked by Mahsa Amini's murder
Fast forward to the terrible murder of Mahsa Amini, which sparked nationwide protests throughout the Islamic Republic. The entire world watched the brutal regime crack down on its people and senselessly murder those who publicly refused to wear a hijab or opposed the regime in any way.
A month into the Iran protests, Hooman collaborated on a mural in his own community in the Bay Area. Inspired by this, Hooman yearned to bring this initiative outside San Francisco but he wasn’t the only one.
The San Francisco mural caught the attention of two Israelis who saw what Hooman did and they reached out to him to try to recreate the project in Israel. Emily Schrader, CEO of Social Lite Creative and a social media activist, and Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, the deputy mayor of Jerusalem, both vocal activists in Israel for the people of Iran, brought Hooman to Israel and organized a beautiful mural right outside Jerusalem’s Hadar mall.
“I felt it was very important to show the world that Israelis and the Jewish people are standing with the people of Iran, considering how much the governments hate each other.”Hooman Khalili
A new initiative was born in Israel where a group of Israelis had decided we wanted these murals all over Israel. Hooman immediately agreed and said, “I felt it was very important to show the world that Israelis and the Jewish people are standing with the people of Iran, considering how much the governments hate each other.” Hooman added, “The two peoples of the countries are transcending their government and are showing love for one another.”
After meeting so many Israelis and seeing how much the Jewish people have shown solidarity with Iranians, Hooman decided that we wanted to expand this initiative and organize more of these murals to help fight antisemitism. As global Jew hate continues to surge, Hooman believes that this initiative will break barriers and stereotypes about Jews and Israelis.
Four murals dedicated to the people of Iran are displayed in different parts of Israel. In Jerusalem, Israel’s capital, the mural features the faces of Mahsa Amini, Sarina Esmaielzahdeh, Fereshteh Ahmadi and Nika Shakarami. All four of these Iranian women were murdered by the regime.
In Nazareth, the largest Arab-Israeli city, the mural depicts the faces and names of several Iranian youths, all murdered for protesting against the Islamic Republic. What is powerful about the Nazareth mural is that it is located in a parking lot owned by a Muslim, was organized by a Christian and was painted by a Jew.
The third and fourth murals are displayed in Netanya and the Museum for Islamic Art in Jerusalem show Ghazal Ranjkesh Niloofar, an Iranian activist who was blinded in one eye by the Islamic regime.
Hooman mentioned that after he publicly unveiled the first mural in Jerusalem, hundreds of Persians who were initially anti-Israel were shocked to see Israel take such a beautiful step to memorialize their heroes. The world is unaware of the solidarity and friendship between the people of Iran and Israel, and for Hooman, the best way to shed light on that is through art. Hooman said, “the murals in Israel seem to have a bigger impact on Iranians than anywhere else in the world.”
Hooman’s goal is to organize 18 murals across Israel and hopes to see them in cities like Haifa, Tiberias, Tel Aviv and (most notably) right next to the Gaza border, which is ruled by Iran’s terror proxy, Hamas. With each mural, Hooman works with a graffiti artist and the city municipality to find a suitable space to display it.
His biggest challenges, especially as a non-Israeli, have been finding funding, artists and cities who want to volunteer the space to display a mural. Hooman hopes that these stunning displays of art bring comfort to the victims’ families and inspire the people of Iran to continue to fight for their freedom. Hooman wants to remind the world that both Israel and Iran were allies for thousands of years before the Islamic Revolution.
The writer is a social media activist with over 10 years of experience working for Israeli, Jewish and cause-based NGOs. She is the co-founder and the COO of Social Lite Creative, a digital marketing firm specializing in geopolitics.