Unheard Voices

A project by Janna Lichter
University of Applied Sciences Düsseldorf and University of Europe for Applied Sciences Berlin
with Prof. Anja Vormann

The project is a typographic research on the Hebrew language and images written on the walls of Tel Aviv. I ask for the chances and limits of writings on walls as a moment of resistance from residents. Regarding to 1700 years of Jewish life in Germany I locate the graffiti to new places in Germany and hold interviews with Jewish residents for their comments.

Handwriting, wall paintings, and stencils are depended on the walls of Tel Aviv. Residents use graffiti to communicate their personal, social or political positions. The walls offer them the opportunity to share their voices with the public. During my semester abroad in Tel Aviv, I am exploring different questions together with my colleague Yael. What do the residents of Tel Aviv have to say? What political positions do they hold? Who can decipher the graffiti on the walls?

The graffiti show different handwritings, fonts and ways to play with the alphabet. Hebrew is written from right to left – without using vowels. Changing a small detail can give the word a whole new meaning. The characters remain a mystery for me to solve. At the Holon Institute of Technology I study visual communication for five months and ask a fellow Israeli student to help me out translating the graffiti. The subject of graffiti opens a new topic between us and a joint project has begun. Yael and I translate the city’s graffiti together – our different backgrounds give us new perspectives on the project.

 Israel is alive

Is the public stupid ?

 No justice

If I forget Jerusalem, it‘s because of Tel Aviv

Occupation = Terror

Social Welfare for Holocaust Survivors

 Revolution of love


Yael and I walk around the city analyzing, translating and discussing various graffiti. One of the first graffiti we see, Yael translates, “If I was Rothschild, I wouldn’t donate anything to the Zionists.” Who exactly is Rothschild? Why is the artist criticizing Zionism? What party does the artist belong to? Yael explains that Rothschild belongs to a rich family who supported the Zionists and helped establish the State of Israel. The artist could belong to a leftist party that believed in equality between Jews and Arabs in Israel; and not the Zionists who see Israel as a state of the Jewish people. We continue walking and pass another graffiti: “If I forget Jerusalem, it’s because of Tel Aviv.” Yael comments on this phrase, saying it is borrowed from a religious expression. The graffiti describes with humor that Tel Aviv has become more important than Jerusalem and makes fun of the competition between the two cities. Another graffiti deals with the youth and children of Israel “Israel Children’s Army.” Yael says she too was obligated to join the army for two years, like every young citizen in Israel. The graffiti criticizes the Israeli government regarding the use of young adults to protect the country. Young people have no choice and spend much of their time in the army.