Monday, January 01, 2024

"048" graffiti in Haifa is a warning for Jewish Israelis (Forest Rain)

By Forest Rain

048 is the writing on the wall

The Hamas massacre happened because many people did not take Hamas at their word. Although Hamas openly declared their intentions and goals and followed up consistently with actions, many people in Israel and around the world pretended they did not see, did not know. It was easier. Less scary.

Long before the Hamas massacre of October 7th I’ve been taking note of graffiti in my city, Haifa. The same message, written over and over and over on the walls of my city.

After October 7th, this graffiti has increased.

What do you think the message is here?

048. On a guided tour of Haifa I attended years ago the guide said that the numbers indicate a sense of city pride as they are the Haifa area code, the first 3 numbers of Haifa telephone numbers.

Really? Do you believe anyone would be that enthusiastic about their area code?

The digits 048 seem innocuous. I’m sure I walked past them many times - before I saw them next to Arabic writing, the map of Israel with the watermelon (a fruit adopted as a Palestinian symbol due to its colors), the PLO flag, and the declaration SAVE SHEIKH JARRAH.

In this version of the graffiti, the number 19 appears within the 0.


What do you see? I see a clear message, literally written on the wall. 1948. The “disaster” of Israel’s founding (not ‘67 when supposedly peace was thwarted by the “occupation” and “settlements”). 1948.

This is a declaration of intention and aspiration. In Haifa, the city that markets itself as a city of inclusion where Jews and Arabs live peacefully side by side.

We do live side by side, but does that mean there is peace? 

Arabs in Haifa don’t physically attack their Jewish neighbors, at least not usually. There are mass graves in the old Jewish cemetery of Haifa that tell of a different interaction between neighbors pre-1948. The only physical violence I have seen in my time in Haifa was the pogroms of May 2021, during Operation Guardian of the Walls.

Every time there is an Operation in Gaza there are Arab demonstrations in Haifa, where Israeli Arabs, sometimes under missile fire, express their solidarity with Gaza and call “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”.  

These demonstrators are a minority of the Arab population. That’s true. What’s also true is that they are Israelis who sympathize with terrorists who murder Israelis and declare the ultimate goal of destroying the country which gives them the freedom to scream that they too want to destroy the country.

It is easy to dismiss the “extreme minority.”

It’s also easy to see coexistence in the Arab-owned coffee houses and pubs full of highly educated, sophisticated Arab hipsters. It’s easy not to notice the signs and menus that are written in Arabic and English, with no Hebrew (the language of the land). If you don’t approach the employees of many of these places you might never come across those who will speak to you in perfect English but refuse to answer in Hebrew. If you don’t push them about why they, citizens of Israel won’t speak Hebrew you might never hear the answer that I have heard “I don’t speak the language of the occupation.”

I take people at face value. They don’t always tell you directly what they believe but if you pay attention, there are signs and symbols.

I take note when the smiling and pleasant Arab vendor wears a necklace in the shape of a machine gun. Before October 7th, when asked about his necklace, he laughed and put it under his shirt.

After October 7th, when all the Jews around me were somber and despondent, the Arab vendors in the market were jubilant. Today, at the end of December, the Jewish vendors will tell you in whispers: “They were acting like people act when their favorite sports team wins the championship.”    

But if you don’t go and don’t ask, you might never know.

Interestingly, now that Gaza is being smashed to smithereens, the Arab vendors in the market (and other Arabs in Haifa) have reverted to their normal behavior. Not so loud, not so happy.

People express what they believe in various ways. Sometimes the writing is literally on the wall. Paying attention might just save your life.

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