Stairway to Zion

I don’t know of another city in America with as many comparable Israel and Mideast-related visual signifiers as San Francisco. As documented in my recent Zeek photo essay, Welcome to My Neighborhood, and this blog, (and, also, in a chapter in my forthcoming book) they’re impossible to miss.

This retail display above, of the classic 1950s children’s introduction to Zionism, sits quite unselfconsciously two storefronts down from the window arrangement below, of a keffiyeh and Phoenician-themed bowls,  on Valencia street. If you want a mirror of SF’s increasingly Semitic character, the proof is in the pudding.

Out running an errand later this same day, I took the following picture, below, of a pickup bearing the inscription TRUCK AK-47 on the upper left rear panel. Though there is nothing specifically Levantine about an American naming their truck after the infamous Russian assault rifle, it still made me feel more at home, however awkwardly.

Considering how common the AK-47 was in criminal circles here during the 1980s and 1990s, and before that, in Vietnam (where they were used by the Viet Cong and the NVA), and how frequently they’re encountered in Iraq and Afghanistan today, to Americans, the Kalashnikov has become synonymous with conflict.

Yesterday, Jennifer and I went looking for evidence of a recent poster campaign about Israeli Arabs, that has been taking place in San Francisco this month. Already displaced (at least in Noe Valley) by Monday Night Football ads, apparently there is one left downtown. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to capture it on film before we leave.