Haifa’s Ghost Town

A creative wave of DIY culture takes Israel’s Northern coast.

Words by Andrew Wasserstein Photos by Broken Fingaz

Beneath the guise of an industrial port city in Northern Israel, Haifa has become home to a bevy of creatives. While the city may lack the clout of Tel Aviv or Jerusalem, Haifa has become a testing ground for the trends coloring greater Israel. Unifying the city’s artists, musicians, producers and nightlife impresarios is Ghostown, a collective formed in 2011 by a cast of Haifa locals. Whether it’s a live show, exhibition, warehouse club or festival, you can bet Ghostown and its larger family of artists, known as Broken Fingaz, is behind it. Defying their name, the collective has grown to become synonymous with Haifa’s DIY cultural scene, proving that the city is in fact, no longer a ghost town.

“We weren’t completely sure what Ghostown was when we started it (and we still aren’t), but that’s part of what makes it special, it’s flexible and an ever-evolving concept,” says Unga, one of the collective’s founders. “We felt that we needed one entity for all the art projects we were working on, a place that could push our local scene as well as promote artists that we like from abroad. Our goal is to stay independent while showcasing local culture.”

In 2014, the collective opened the now famed Kartel in a former warehouse at the Haifa port. Operating as an experimental club, bar and art gallery, they hosted artist residencies of France’s Horfree, Australia’s Lush and Sweden’s Finsta. “It was all completely DIY,” explains Unga. “We covered the walls with murals, built a bar and furniture, brought a massive sound system and opened the space to the public.” Word spread quickly and the warehouse reached maximum capacity every night. The demand for Kartel’s mix of art and partying gained tremendous popularity, leading them to expand and open a summer pop-up in Tel Aviv’s bustling Kerem haTemanim neighborhood.

In less than a decade, Ghostown and Broken Fingaz have become widely recognized for their street art. Their evocative large-scale murals can be found painted across factories and abandoned buildings all over the world. The Walls Festival, produced by Ghostown, brought a roster of internationally renowned artists to Haifa to generate works in the city’s disenfranchised neighborhoods, using the streets as a forum for discussion and creative renewal. The line-up of artists included Alin Mor, Tant, Demsky, Forty5 Forty6, Leolyxxx and Keos.

The popularity of Ghostown and Broken Fingaz’s work has led to commercial success, hosting pop-up shops in East London and Los Angeles, collaborating on projects with WeWork, Penguin Books and MTV. The collective was most recently commissioned to produce music videos for U2 and Beck. No matter where the roving members of Ghostown land around the world, their home base will always be along the Mediterranean Sea. “People here [Haifa] are really doing this because they believe in the art. If you are looking for hype and status, you won’t survive, it’s painfully down to earth here,” Unga reveals. “You can travel the world and know that Haifa will always be there just the way you left it.”

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