Corridors of Power: Name dropping

In recent years, the municipality has been increasing funding and investment in east Jerusalem neighborhoods. The upgrading project includes standardizing street names there.

June 20, 2019 13:11
1 minute read.
Corridors of Power: Name dropping

AN 1891 photo shows houses built by the Ezrat Niddachim charitable organization in Silwan for poor Yemenite Jews in the 1880s.. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)


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In recent years, the municipality has been increasing funding and investment in east Jerusalem neighborhoods. The upgrading project includes standardizing street names there. 

Generally, the names selected are either neutral or relate to the local Arab population. For example, Umm Kulthum St. was named after a noted Egyptian singer beloved by Arabs and Israelis alike.

The naming encountered a complication this week when the committee, comprised of city council members led by Mayor Moshe Lion, named four streets in the predominantly Arab Silwan neighborhood after respected Yemenite rabbis. In the 19th century, the rabbis – Rabbi Avraham Elandaf, Rabbi Yechiel Yitzchak Halevi, Shalom Elsheikh Halevi and Saadia Madmoni – led the community of Yemenite Jews who lived in that location until they were forced to flee by rioting Arab neighbors. The streets are in the part of the neighborhood called “Kfar Hateimanim.”

Commemorating relevant rabbis in the holy city is certainly a proper thing to do, yet some consider it provocative in this case. Coalition members Yossi Havilio (Save Jerusalem) and Laura Wharton (Meretz) voted against the naming; Deputy Mayor Eliezer Rauchberger and Moshe Gura (Degel Hatorah) and Yehuda Ben-Yossef (Jerusalem Will Succeed) abstained.

“There is no point to giving Jewish names to streets inside an Arab neighborhood,” explained Rauchberger. “It will only lead to agitation and disturbance.” City council member Arieh King (United) who supported the decision, accused the haredi members who voted against the naming of being influenced by the radical Left.

The professional committee that checks proposed street names strongly opposed the decision, arguing that the Arab residents would not use the new Jewish names, undermining the major reason for choosing the names – to give residents an opportunity to learn about personalities and events of the past.

The municipality holds that as Jerusalem is the united capital of Israel, renovating ancient Jewish sites and commemorating relevant Jewish figures is natural and legitimate.

Last September, as part of the renovation of Silwan’s historic “Kfar Hateimanim” area of Silwan, a ceremony marking the restoration of the synagogue there was conducted in the presence of then mayoral candidate and still Jerusalem and Heritage Minister, Ze’ev Elkin.

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