Unlikely Alliance in Hevron's 'War of Graffiti'
In a joint effort and rare demonstration of unity, Jewish and Arab residents of Hevron are beginning to repaint the city walls that have been desecrated and profaned with derogatory graffiti for over a decade.
Jewish residents, Israeli police and local Arabs are coming together in this highly contentious area in an effort to restore and repair the city to its undefiled state, before anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim graffiti came to be one of its most notable traits, Israel’s Hebrew daily Maariv reported.
Following the barrage of Arab attacks in 2001, which reached its peak when an Arab sniper killed 10-month-old infant Shalhevet Pass at the entrance to Hevron’s Avraham Avinu neighborhood, the Israeli political and military leadership decided to isolate the Jewish community and close Arab shops in an effort to safeguard the small Jewish population from the continuous onslaught.
In the proceeding years, graffiti, against Jews and Muslims alike, has come to conceal the beauty and allure of the ancient city and area surrounding the Cave of the Patriarchs.
Most of the graffiti appears on David Hamelech Street, the main street in Hevron adjacent to the Jewish community. Among the slogans appearing on almost every wall or storefront are “Death to the Jews,” “Stop the Occupation,” and various other expletives in Arabic, English and Hebrew.
However, ten months ago, when Barak Arusi was appointed to lead the police unit in charge of the area surrounding the Jewish holy site, he avowed, as one of his first projects in his new post, to initiate a campaign to cleanse the city, according to Maariv.
He then turned to Noam Arnon, a leader of the Jewish settlement in Hevron, and the two enlisted the help of the local Jewish residents to paint adjacent shops and stores that had been defaced.
After it became apparent that the paint was being supplied by Israel, the Arabs residents agreed to join the process, realizing that their shops—some of which are still in operation-- would benefit from the project as well.
In recent weeks, the Hevron police, together with professionals, cleaned, painted and polished the city.
Incidentally, a number of European radical left-wing activists have managed to vandalize some new doors, which were then repainted in only one day.
"One of the things I learned in the army is that when a place is clean and orderly, there is a decline in violence,” Arusi told the Hebrew daily. “I definitely believe that dirt and vandalism awaken the violent instincts in people and stimulate incitement.”
“I hope that the cleaning operation will help in creating a sense of calm in the city,” he added.