Hitting the Streets: Data Collection in Jerusalem’s Old City

I arrived in Jerusalem on Sunday, and spent Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday conducting field work for my study of the graffiti of Jerusalem. I have taken 700 pictures, and have surveyed most of the Christian, Muslim, and Armenian quarters. At this point in my research, I’m focusing my efforts on data collection, rather than analysis, but I’m seeing a few trends which I will keep in mind for when I begin my paper in the next weeks.

The most interesting and obvious trend I have noticed so far is that there is much, much more graffiti in the Muslim quarter than in the Christian and Armenian quarters. While that is predictable, because the Muslim quarter is the largest, the differences seem very disproportionate. The graffiti in the Christian quarter was generally smaller, and not very dense. It consisted mostly of names, written in sharpie on doors or electrical boxes, and spray painting on the walls was present, but not very common. ┬áIn the Muslim quarter, however, there was a lot of graffiti on the walls, and most of it was pretty big. Additionally, there were also stencils used in the Muslim quarter, which I didn’t see at all in the Christian and Armenian quarters. The graffiti in the Muslim quarter seems very politically and religiously driven, and there is at least one section of wall on just about every street that looks like this:



The stencils of the Dome of the Rock, the crescent and star, and the Kaaba are seen throughout the Muslim quarter. Additionally, I am seeing a lot of the Palestinian flag in the Muslim quarter. In fact, the sole exception to the lack of stencils in the Christian and Armenian quarters, was in a street outside of a mosque in the Armenian quarter, and the stencils used were the same ones seen in the Muslim quarter (Dome of the Rock, Kaaba, and crescent and star).

One thing that intrigues me is the lack of western influence and pop culture references. I have seen a few mentions, no more than two or three, to the Spanish soccer team Real Madrid, but nothing else western. I was expecting a few stencils of American or European pop-culture icons, but perhaps the Jewish quarter will be more fruitful in that regard.

In short, in short the Muslim quarter has a much higher volume and density of graffiti. It is not very artistic, but more so than the Christian or Armenian quarters, because more stencils are used.

I will finish my field work by documenting the graffiti in the Jewish quarter, and revisiting any spots I may have missed in the other three. I will also start on getting some of the pieces translated. I’ll start the paper writing phase when I return to the US, and continue reading scholarly sources on graffiti.



  1. klwessman says:

    What interesting, creative research you are doing this summer! I read your initial post and find the information you have gathered so far very intriguing. I, too, wonder what you will find in the other quarters– whether you will see more references to western influences and pop culture. I am also very interested in learning about what you believe to be the major differences in the graffiti of each of the quarters. Finally, I think that once you get the translations (as you said you would do upon getting back to the U.S.), it will be very helpful when making your research conclusions. Have you thought about talking to any of the people you encounter and asking them their opinions/interpretations of the graffiti? It might give you some very special insights.
    Best of luck!