Graffiti Activists Fight Back Against Torn Down Posters

(Courtesy of Artists 4 Israel) The KIDNAPPED by Hamas posters regularly being torn down around New York City are now taking over rooftops beneath flight paths in and out of NYC airports. Passengers looking out their windows along some major routes will see giant, painted murals across entire City roofs.

The creators are graffiti activists aiming to fight back against concealing the fate of the Israeli hostages taken by Hamas. “Even the most rage-filled bigot cannot vandalize something soaring in the air above them,” says Craig Dershowitz, CEO of the nonprofit Artists 4 Israel. “Nothing is as permanent as a rooftop no-one else can ever reach.”

Drone footage showing what passengers on planes will see flying over the mural in and out of NYC airports. (Copyright Artists 4 Israel)

The first rooftop message appeared shortly after anti-Israel protestors forced a highway shutdown of the entry into New York’s JFK airport. The staged traffic jam caused major delays and passengers to miss flights.

Artists 4 Israel aims to take the opposite approach. “When they go low, we go high,” says Dershowitz, quoting Michelle Obama. “Airports represent homecoming in the most basic and fundamental way. Our biggest prayer and hope is that these hostages are soon returned to Israel and are able to hug their families again. We hope travelers will remember them when they come home off their flights to meet their own loved ones.”

The first rooftop mural is in Brooklyn. The exact address is being withheld out of security concerns and is mean to be seen from the air. The building’s owner, Debra Nussbaum Cohen, is a journalist and author, as well as a small rental property owner, who has lived in Israel. As a believer in the power of public art, when Nussbaum Cohen saw a call go out for a rooftop that could be seen on the way into the airports, she was eager to volunteer her rental property’s rooftop.

“Freeing the Israeli hostages is not a morally complicated issue. Yet, I do not see the international outcry for their release that I expected,” says Nussbaum Cohen. “It is as if the world considers it acceptable for innocent Israelis to be kidnapped and held hostage because they are Israeli.”

“The people who were at the Nova Festival, many of those kidnapped and murdered there and from the kibbutzim, could be my children,” says Nussbaum Cohen. “They are like my nieces and nephews. The son of someone I know was killed in the line of duty last week. It breaks my heart. It literally feels like this is happening to my own family.”

While not Jewish or Israeli, the artist who painted the mural, Fernando Romero who goes by his graffiti name SKI, says the issue also hits him on a personal level – especially as he is starting a family of his own. “People were ripped away from their families. They weren’t arrested because of a crime. They didn’t do anything to deserve that. Bring them home. Now. What the fuck are you doing with them? As a non-Jew, I get emotional about these things because I don’t see the reason for it.”

Painting a message on a rooftop that can be read from the air from multiple angles is very complicated, shares SKI. “It was all painted in roller paint, many many buckets of paint. I choose that design mainly because there is movement to it. You can read it without figuring out where it stops and where it starts. If it was one straight sentence it would look like gibberish. I choose blue and white for the Israeli flag. I am letting the colors speak, those are very powerful colors from far away.”

SKI and Artists 4 Israel have put out the call for other graffiti artists to start on new rooftops. “More and more artists are reaching out to do their own murals. This is a bigger voice than one roof, it will become many voices.”

Dershowitz, who is looking for additional NYC rooftops to be painted, says the rooftops are only the beginning, stay tuned. “People of good conscience can never stop fighting for the release of these innocent victims of Hamas violence. Those that tear down the KIDNAPPED posters are trying to rip away that message and, by so doing, justify Hamas brutality. We refuse to allow that. We refuse to allow the message to be censored.”

If you have a roof to offer, contact Craig Dershowitz, Artists 4 Israel, CEO, (718) 757-8738, [email protected]

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