Hooman Khalili speaking at the unveiling of one of his mural in Netanya, Israel. Photo: Michael Stevens
A fifth mural was recently completed in Israel that features aspects of both Israeli and Iranian culture while also showing support for the nationwide, anti-government protests led by women that is currently taking place in Iran, the Iranian designer behind the art told The Algemeiner.
The murals produced, funded and designed by Hooman Khalil in collaboration with local Israeli artists include in Hebrew, English and Farsi the phrase “Women, Life, Freedom,” which has become the unofficial slogan of protesters in Iran who took to the streets after the September 2022 death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman who died while in the custody of Iran’s morality police. Each mural also depicts different women killed by Iranian authorities, including Amini. Khalili’s first mural was unveiled in Jerusalem in January and was completed by Israeli artist Ana Kogan. Khalili has since designed murals in Nazareth, another in Jerusalem outside the Museum for Islamic Art and two in Netanya.
“All of these murals are ultimately doing one thing: they are reminding the world that the Persians have been the friends of the Jews for 3,000 years. I do as much as I can to unify both cultures in one mural,” Khalili, 48 told The Algemeiner. “In all the murals you’ll see the flag of Jerusalem, because all my murals are pointing back to Jerusalem, you’ll always see a woman riding a lion with a sword in her hand, because it’s a women-led revolution, [and] you’ll always see the flag of Iran with a lion with a sword in his hand, with the sun rising in his back, [which is] the Zorastrian symbol.”
Khalili was born in Iran but left his birth country with his mother when he was 3 years old. His father remained in Iran and the artist has not seen him in 45 years. He currently lives in California and works as a creative director for a boutique hotel. In November of 2022, he helped create a mural in San Francisco, California, in support of the Iranian protesters. A picture of the mural went viral on social media and was seen by the Vice Mayor of Jerusalem Fleur Hassan Nahoum, who then contacted Khalili and asked him to design murals in Israel in support of the people of Iran fighting for human rights.
The first mural in Netanya, unveiled in late March, depicts Niloufar Aghaei, a nurse whose eye was deliberately shot out by the Iranian regime as punishment for joining the anti-government protests. The bird covering Aghaei’s eye in the mural is the nightingale, which is the official bird of Iran. Iranian Crown Prince Reza Pahlavi visited the mural during his recent trip to Israel.
The latest mural in Netanya, done by Israeli graffiti artist Benzi Brofman and unveiled on May 1, features an image of Ghazal Ranjkesh, a protester whose eye was also shot out by Iranian authorities. In that mural, the bird covering Ranjkesh’s missing eye is the hoopoe, the national bird of Israel.
The next mural will be unveiled in June in the Druze village of Beit Jann in northern Israel, Khalili told The Algemeiner. His goal is to complete 18 murals in total across Israel that unify the Israeli and Iranian cultures, and show solidarity with the protesters in Iran. Three of the already completed murals also say “it’s time for the Esthers of the world to rise up,” a reference to the biblical Jewish Queen Esther, who lived in ancient Persia and risked her life to save the Jewish people.
“This is a woman-led revolution,” Khalili said about the anti-government protests taking place in Iran and it’s connection to Queen Esther. “If you think about the story of Esther, her bravery, the way she was able to put her life on the line to save the Jews — this is a time for Israel and Iran to become friends again, for the woman of the world to lead, like they did during the time of Esther, and for all of us collectively to give a voice to the Persian people who have no voice.”