This has been an incredible year for graffiti and street art all over the globe, but here in Israel it may actually have been the best yet. Alternative Tel Aviv’s top ten graffiti and street art choices for 2018 and we can tell you right now that 2019 is going to be all about the hard core Hebrew graffiti.

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Piece by Frenemy photo by Amir Binenfeld

Frenemy, Florentin, Tel Aviv.
A lot of classic graffiti pieces on our list this year. This one’s by Frenemy, originally from Austin, Texas, lives and works in Tel Aviv for the past few years. We just love his graffiti lettering style, though his known mostly for his paintings in the streets, depicting various situation of city life and urban culture. Street art admirers would recognize Frenemy’s signature baseball cap, which can be found in every piece of his we’ve seen so far.

Brothers of Light_photo by Alternative Tel Aviv
Piece by Brothers of Light photo by Alternative Tel Aviv

Brothers of Light, Talpiot, Jerusalem.
This huge piece with lots of details was done by our favorites, the Brothers of Light (who are actually brothers) Elna and Gab from Jerusalem, as part of the Walls Festival Jerusalem which opened to the public last May in the Talpiot area in south-east Jerusalem. This piece is filled with oriental elements such as camels, palm trees or the “Hamsa” and “evil eye” symbols, which are considered “good luck charms” in oriental culture and the Middle-East region. We think that this piece is in fact about luck and also about dreams, or maybe even about the connection between luck and dreams. Note for example the “Mifal HaPais” booth (Mifal HaPais is the national lottery of Israel) with the signs on it which says “No Luck”, the big billboard which says “Our Dreams Are All We Have” and the half-white dove half-airplane, flying in from the top right. A white dove with an olive branch in its beak is a known symbol for peace, a dream everyone in our region holds. May we all be lucky enough to see it come true this year.

Mr. Bombastic_photo by Ruti Pugatch
Piece by Mr. Bombastic photo by Ruti Pugatch

Mr. Bombastic, Jaffa.
Emerging into our consciousness only last year, this guy, who we don’t personally know yet, has made such a big impression on us that he’s occupying two spots on our list this year. In this specific piece, Mr. bombastic wrote the Arabic word “Salam” which means “Hello” (“Shalom” in Hebrew), but can also mean “Peace”, as in Hebrew. Writing this seemingly simple word in Jaffa’s flea market area and incorporating the Shekel sign into it, Bombastic made us think about the classic graffiti field in Israel and commercial possibilities, if any, for the artists practicing it (as opposed to street art, which has become very mainstream and commercially successful in Israel in the last decade). In any case, we love the old school graffiti style in Arabic lettering and hope to see more of those this upcoming year.

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Piece by Keos photo by Shachaf Rodberg

Keos, Downtown Haifa.
Speaking of Hebrew graffiti writing, we simply adore this piece done by Keos, one of the old-school, name-based, Hebrew graffiti pioneers. Done in the port of downtown Haifa, this piece depicts several kinds of vehicles, from a pink flashy sports car to a flying helicopter. Note the off-white van on the left, filled with little graffiti tags in homage to the artist’s friends and colleagues.

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Piece by Shredder photo by Shachaf Rodberg

Shredder, Kiryat Hamlacha, Tel Aviv.
The now known “Hatzilu” (“Help”) piece by urban artivist Shredder, was first shown at the Freshness urban art exhibition on May 12 2018. Pasted-up on an outside wall of the pussycat strip club, which is operating illegally in Kikar Atarim (Atarim square) in Tel Aviv, this piece, composed of concerning testimonies of women who works/worked in prostitution as well as segments from an hideous facebook page where men rate prostitutes they went to – was a very important act of resistance. The piece was shown several times since then in various cities and exhibitions around the world, but as we stumbled upon it on our graffiti tour of the Kiryat Hamlacha compound in south Tel Aviv, an area crawling with illegal activity including prostitution, we found the massage intensified. It also made us think about the sight specific qualities of street art as an art medium.

Bicicleta Sem Freio_photo by Alternative Tel Aviv.JPG
Piece by Bicicleta Sem Freio photo by Alternative Tel Aviv

Bicicleta Sem Freio, Talpiot, Jerusalem.
The next two pieces on our list are on the same giant wall and are both done for the Walls Festival Jerusalem. This one is by the Bicicleta Sem Freio (Bicycle Without Brakes) crew, a Brazilian design and illustration collective. They were some of the carefully selected foreign urban artists who were invited to participate in the Wall Festival initiative. We love their surrealist and colorful style, especially in this magnificent piece, depicting a woman with head and neck made of exotic birds and plants.

Broken Fingaz Crew_photo by Alternative Tel Aviv
Piece by Broken Fingaz Crew photo by Alternative Tel Aviv

Broken Fingaz Crew, Talpiot, Jerusalem.
Originally from Haifa, the BFC is the most known Israeli graffiti collective worldwide. This year those brilliant guys managed not only to execute the Walls Festival Haifa’s second edition (opened in October 2018) and the Walls Festival Jerusalem’s first edition under Ghostown, their clothing and production label, but also to exhibit their unique art in various exhibitions around the world, as well as to do the stop motion animation for two of U2’s latest videos! This particular piece seemed to be influenced by their two months stay in India a year ago, where they painted some walls and shot the video clip for U2. They wrote on their website that they were very inspired by this “beautiful, rich and dirty culture”.

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Piece by Mr. Bombastic photo by Shachaf Rodberg

Mr. Bombastic, Kiryat Hamlacha, Tel Aviv.
Another one by the talented Mr. Bombastic at the Kiryat Hamlacha compound in south Tel Aviv. This one also says “Shalom” but it’s in Hebrew, in what is called “print lettering”. Similar to the Rashi letters style, this piece sends us to ancient Hebrew and leaves us wondering what is in fact Mr. Bombastic’s first language – Hebrew or Arabic? He definitely demonstrates artistic talent and ability in writing both.

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Piece by The Missk and Thales photo by Or Fischer

The Missk and Thales, Neve Tzedek, Tel Aviv.
This new piece on our Florentin graffiti tour route, got us reminiscing about the 80’s pop culture – The Simpsons, Eurythmics (the white text says “sweet dreams are made of this” in English phonetics but in Hebrew letters), things that everyone who grew up in the 90’s is familiar with. Both artists are relatively new to the street art scene. We first saw Thales‘s work at the Freshness exhibition and immediately connected to his tower-faced characters. We already know about The Missk from early this year, since her marvelous pieces with fantastic creatures and titles of various pop songs in them, inhabit the Florentin neighborhood and its margins for quite some time now.  

Liron Lavi Turkenich_photo by Alternative Tel Aviv.jpg
Piece by Liron Lavi Turkenich photo by Alternative Tel Aviv

Liron Lavi Turkenich, Downown Haifa.
Israeli designer Liron Lavi Turkenich invented the “Aravrit” font, an experimental writing system presenting a set of hybrid letters merging Hebrew and Arabic. Each letter is composed of Arabic on the upper half and Hebrew on the bottom half. In Aravrit, one can read any chosen language without ignoring the other one, which is always present. Aravrit was Lavi Turkenich’s graduation project from Shenkar college visual communication department back in 2012 and she was even nominated for the prestige Beazley design award this year for it, alongside two other Israeli designers. She’s not exactly what we’d call a classic “street artist”, but luckily for us, she did some stencil pieces with the Aravrit font in various cities across Israel. This specific one was done in downtown Haifa, the artists home town, and it says “Thank You” – “Toda” in Hebrew and “Shukran” in Arabic, combined.

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Alternative Tel Aviv goes Berlin in 2019! graffiti and gallery tours in Berlin throughout the year.

So thank you for reading so far. We really hope that we’ve managed to shed some light on Israel’s thriving urban art scene, which keeps us looking up even in the darkest of days. May this year be a year of light, peace and wonderful street art! Happy new year from all of us at Alternative Tel Aviv.