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Pro-Hamas Graffiti Scrawled Along Oakland’s Lake Merritt Over Weekend


That was the reaction from Rabbi Mark Bloom of Oakland’s Temple Beth Abraham when he learned that threatening pro-Hamas, anti-Israel and anti-American graffiti was discovered in 15 to 20 spots around Lake Merritt over the weekend.

The Oakland Police Department said Tuesday that it is investigating the graffiti as a hate crime.

The messages discovered at Lake Merritt carried vitriolic statements against Israel and in support of the terrorist organization that attacked Israeli civilians on Oct. 7 in the deadliest massacre of Jews since the Holocaust.

The graffiti included the phrases “Long live Hamas,” “Intifada,” “Our blood will defeat your airstrikes and massacres, o Zionist” and “Kill Biden.” In one instance, a red heart encircled the word “Hamas.”

The Jewish watchdog organization, StopAntisemitism shared the images to Twitter.

The vandalism represented an escalation in anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian graffiti in Oakland, even as it has become more common there since the Oct. 7 terror attack and the ensuing Israel-Hamas war. Some of the previous graffiti has simply stated “Free Palestine” or “Free Gaza,” while other graffiti has carried more pointed messages, like “F**k Israel” or “Zionism = fascism,” which was scrawled in the bathroom of an Oakland cafe.

“There’s been other graffiti, all over the city,” including on parking meters, said Bloom, who was traveling when he heard about the vandalism Sunday. “It’s been constant. I just keep seeing it.”

The Bay Area has become “ground zero for this new level of intolerance” in the U.S., Tye Gregory, CEO of the Jewish Community Relations Council Bay Area, wrote Sunday in an op-ed in Haaretz. The spike in antisemitic and vehemently anti-Israel incidents — some amounting to crimes — have included the shattering of the windows of a Jewish-owned ice cream shop in San Francisco, public speakers celebrating Hamas and downplaying the Oct. 7 attack at local government meetings and assaults on pro-Israel demonstrators at public events, in addition to dozens of graffiti incidents.  

J. spoke with an Oakland public works employee who was cleaning up the graffiti on Tuesday. He declined to give his name because he was not authorized to speak publicly.

The worker estimated that the vandals left as many as 20 related tags around the 3.4-mile perimeter of the lake over the weekend. Hardest hit was the pergola, a historic colonnade on the northeastern side of the lake where unhoused people often sleep surrounded by belongings. The pergola is less than a half-mile from Temple Beth Abraham.

“This has been happening for a month now,” the city worker said about anti-Israel graffiti. He added that vandals often use graffiti to comment on current events. “Whatever’s happening in the world gets reflected in the streets,” he said.

In December, vandals took things a step further at Lake Merritt, destroying an 11-foot-tall menorah set up for Hanukkah by Chabad of Oakland. The vandals also scrawled graffiti near the site of the menorah, including “Free Palestine” in Arabic and “You’re on alert.” The Oakland Police Department told J. earlier this month that investigators had no updates about the crime.

The Oakland public works employee said he was at home Monday on Presidents Day when he was notified about the graffiti and was told it was an “emergency” to clean it up. He rushed over to Lake Merritt, applied primer paint over the graffiti and returned the following day to finish the job, he said. 

“Usually it’s hate, or racism, or sexism” that prompts an emergency call, he said.

Rebecca Feigelson, an Oakland resident and Beth Abraham member, learned about the incident via messages in a WhatsApp group for Oakland Jewish families, many of whom send their children to local public schools. The group formed amid a spike in antisemitism after Oct. 7. At least 30 Jewish families obtained approval for transfer from the school district due to their concerns over antisemitism or bias from teachers about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“You can feel the hate,” Feigelson said, about the graffiti.

Bloom texted Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao about the graffiti but hadn’t heard back by Tuesday afternoon. Deputy Mayor Kimberly Mayfield told Bloom at an event Monday night for First African Methodist Episcopal Church that she would speak with the mayor. Beth Abraham and the AME church have become closer after a fire badly damaged the church last year and the synagogue began hosting church services.

Bloom said he was heartened that the city cleaned up the graffiti but worried that the damage had already been done. When he saw images of the graffiti, he thought: “Just, boy, our city is ugly.”

“Literally and figuratively,” he added. The graffiti made “what should be a beautiful area, ugly.”