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Vespa Adventures, Jerusalem Street Art

Tabula Rasa: Jerusalem Urban Art Project

#Shuk Machane Yehuda

We had to make an unexpected trip into Jerusalem today to renew my scooter insurance, and what would a trip to Jlem be without a quick walk through the Machane Yehuda Shuk? I mostly like to go around this area because there is always some new, political street art that pops up and strikes you with its honesty. I’ve always thought that this busy and bustling place-the Shuk- would be the perfect place for Street Artists since every type of person seems to find their way there.

(Click on the images to enlarge.)

On my previous trip to the Shuk, I found a new little area of the market where I noticed these peculiar arrow signs with something in Hebrew written on them: they immediately caught my attention, being so unusual from the rest of the market- at least visually. Not far from the signs, once I started looking for them, I found various type of art located in the proximity of the sign, that seemed to pop out of hiding now from every corner.

On this visit, there were new plaques with the artist’s name and info next to their project. After some doing some searching, I found out that it was more than a mere “urban art re-claiming” project: it was something that the city had allowed and even wanted to be part of the Shuk. This whole project is called Tabula Rasa, which is Arabic for “blank slate”, and it is worth the searching in the Shuk to see. 

The photo(my favorite!) above plays on the quote, “to be or not to be” by saying instead:

“tomato or not to be”

The purpose of this project is not only to add some culture and colour to the otherwise ordinary wall spaces, but also of bringing together a wide range of artists from different backgrounds to share their stories and viewpoints. It also brings art, front in cernter, as a focal point in an urban area that before never drew any attention, nor had reason to. A lot of the art was created in September and done on various items (such as trash cans, board games, ect.) used throughout the Shuk to add a visual element where there wasn’t one before- to bring a little beauty in the otherwise mundane details of one’s shopping experience. 

Some of the projects where painted during the busiest Shuk hours to allow the visitors to participate as audience members for the creations as they happened. Participating artists include KNOW HOPE – the Israeli posta-graffiti artist, Einat ShteklerItamar MendesflorTamar Pikes, along with many more talented artist.  Even the Mayor of Jerusalem was excited about the project stating,

“The public sphere of Jerusalem city is our home,” says  Nir Bareket, “and as such it should be able to allow the expression of the Jerusalemic spirit, by every citizen of the city. The Tabula Rasa project aims to improve the visual front of the city, by the help of the youth of the art-world, and help in supplying a stable foundation to the local culture, which both the citizens and the creators of future years will enjoy for the coming years”.

The text from the photos(from left to right) above reads,

first, Courtesy proceeds Torah”

third, “Freshly cut/ Both sweet and tasty.”

last, depending on how you take it either:

“strawberry and strawberry/  strawberry and strawberry/ 7 shekles for a kilo strawberry” (literal)

“tuttut/tuttut/ 7 shekles for a kilo tut” (rendered slang)

It ‘opened’ this past September 18th and should be around (it its changing state) for a year or so. (Or as long as they survive, being that they are street art.) The streets where the art is located are  Dekel, Ha’Shikma and Beit Yaacov streets in the Shuk (known as the “Iraqi section” of the bazaar). Let yourself get lost, if you are able to make it down there, and just enjoy whatever you stumble upon. 

From the Shuk web site (,

Tabula Rassa: Urban Art Project Painters, sculptors, photographers, and graphic artists collaborated to transform the areas in and around the Machane Yehuda market into a huge urban art project. Art pieces on display include a statue of Teddy Kolek made completely from recycled bottle caps, self portraits of artists from varying backgrounds who have come together for the project, a huge backgammon board, and more. The art was created before they eyes of onlookers in September 2011: garbage cans, walls, and concrete were all game for artistic transformation, the results of which are set to be on display for at least a year. The project was initiated by Jerusalem Municipality’s Arts branch in cooperation with the Shuk Vendors Association, New Spirit, and the Lev Hair Community Council.  

Women Vs Israel: A Brief Reflection on One Particular Visual:

What I like about the image above (the girl sitting on the power line) is that either after the fact or with the artist’s intent, the girl’s “indecent exposure” had to be corrected. The woman is wearing a skirt that shows off her legs (- her skirt long enough so it is not anything to fuss about, I might add) and in this city, well, this simply isn’t kosher. I am unsure if the artist added this purposely, since it looks like it was done with care, but it makes me wonder at the extremes that happen day in and day out here in Jerusalem with woman. Living in Rehovot, I have forgotten what daily life is life in Jerusalem and how ridged visual expectations and attitudes are for woman (-and the male gaze). It can be a very thin line, depending on where you find yourself, and can completely change your opinion of religion when you see how certain religious folks can act towards one another*. (*Though, this is found in any and every religion with extremist.) Off topic, the third photo is of one of the arrow, it seems to be pointing as a project that has yet to be created. There are a few of these still around that have no “art” yet filling the space. I remember seeming even more of these empty spaces in my previous trip to Jerusalem, about a month ago, so I hope it means that it is an ongoing, evolving project. (Though, I secretly hope that it is there to entice fellow artists, who come to view, to actively participate and create as they set fit in those free spaces.)  

Again, from left to right, the first photo is a religious poem from the artist. The roots of the tree say, “truth”.

The last photo is Teddy Kollek’s portrait compiled of hundreds of corks, by Einat Schtekler.

For further information about the Tabula Rassa Project, visit these sites below:

P.S. UPCOMING VESPA ADVENTURES: Here is a photo from the next project I plan to work on this week.

My next Vespa Adventure post will include video and photos like the one below,

So check back for that little visual treasure! I should have it by next week, for sure.

8 responses to “Vespa Adventures, Jerusalem Street Art

  1. Brilliant colors!! Nice graffiti on those walls.. 😀

  2. Having driven a red Vespa in Toronto I admire your courage in driving one here. This was a very nice post!

  3. ShimonZ

    Very nice post on the local culture here… though I have to add that the Shuk has been a focus for culture for quite a few years now, including visual art!

    • Very true! That is one of the main reasons why I love visiting the place. Beyond that aspect, it is just a visual adventure all around. So much in every direction to see!

  4. Pingback: I’ll Bite: Jerusalem’s Rachmo, via the Shuk « roxyvespa

  5. Pingback: Update for The Tabula Rasa Street Art Project « roxyvespa

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