Har Nof name change approved amid stormy committee meeting

About 30 residents of Har Nof representing multiple different religious and ethnic sectors attended the meeting.

A view of the Har Nof neighborhood, Jerusalem (photo credit: WIKIPEDIA/SIR KISS)
A view of the Har Nof neighborhood, Jerusalem
(photo credit: WIKIPEDIA/SIR KISS)
The Jerusalem Naming Committee approved a motion to change the name of the Har Nof neighborhood to “Neot Yosef” after Sephardi rabbi and former Shas party leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef on Tuesday.
Although Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv was also mentioned in the original press release as one of the two people the name change was honoring, the rest of the press statement went into depth only about Ovadia Yosef – and since then, his name has largely not come up. One Har Nof resident hinted that Elyashiv may have been mentioned in an attempt to appease Ashkenazi residents of the neighborhood.
About 30 residents of Har Nof representing multiple different religious and ethnic sectors attended the meeting. The residents of Har Nof who have spoken to The Jerusalem Post have requested to remain anonymous, as they felt that having their names publicized could put them at risk.
One Har Nof resident told the Post that whenever they attempted to speak, they were silenced by Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion.
A couple of minutes were set aside for four residents to speak at the end of the meeting.
The residents were forbidden from filming the meeting. The committee filmed from an angle that didn’t show most of the residents and shouted at anyone who attempted to film, according to one resident. A few residents were able to get away with filming a few moments of the meeting.
Lion budged somewhat and stated that he was prepared to discuss different options for the name including Har Yosef and Givat Yosef, but did not even address the fact that the residents of Har Nof did not want the name of their neighborhood changed at all, according to the resident.
When it came to the vote, the resident claimed that Lion ignored calls to involve locals in the decision and kept repeating that everything was being done according to the law.
In one of the videos taken at the meeting, a member of the committee can be heard stating that residents will be given two weeks to voice opposition to the decision before a final decision is made by the committee. Lion interjected multiple times to point out that everything was going according to law.
The municipality claimed that it would publish an official announcement in newspapers and in the neighborhood. The Har Nof resident told the Post that this did not occur. The committee is obligated to invite representatives of the neighborhood to a meeting in order to express opposition to the decision, but it’s currently unclear who they’ll invite.
When asked during the meeting why the municipality was pushing the name change even though there was such a sharp backlash from the residents, Lion responded, “Because this is the decision. This is what we want to decide.”
On Wednesday morning, the name of the neighborhood was already changed to Neot Yosef with the name Har Nof in parentheses on the Waze navigation application.
Residents warned that the decision would influence their vote in the next municipal elections. Lion beat his independent, secular rival Ofer Berkovitch by only 2.9% in the 2018 elections.
Lion announced the sudden decision to change the name of Har Nof last week. Residents responded with outrage, claiming that the municipality did not consult residents or their representatives at all before making the decision. Their main issue with the decision is also that the municipality ignored their opinions about the change. The logistical issues, such as changing addresses for mail, also bother residents.
A municipality spokesperson told the Post on Monday that the public would be “a full partner in the final decision through questionnaires and activity in the neighborhood. Any resident who wants to bring up their opinion will have their opinion heard willingly.”
SOME RESIDENTS of Har Nof claimed that the decision to change the name of the neighborhood was connected to Shas, a complaint that has come up in other name change incidents in Israel.
In 2017, in the coastal city of Netanya, the municipality’s naming committee decided to change the name of Tachkemoni Street to Rav Gabbai Street, although local residents were against the change, according to MynetNetanya, a local news source.
“Where’s the tradition?” said Avi, a resident of the neighborhood in Netanya where the street is. “If someone who grew up here will want to come back to the street in another 50 years, there won’t be a place for him to come back to. There’s no justifying the stealing of the name of a street of people who grew up there and raised children there when there’s new roads that don’t have names yet.”
“This is an old street in Netanya with a close community,” said Lior, another resident, according to MynetNetanya. “The residents of the neighborhood have a deep emotional connection. It defines and represents me. I am a resident of Netanya, from Tachkemoni Street.”
Residents and local politicians in Netanya saw the decision to change the name as a forcible action by Shas. “We all feel that the mayor is working for Shas against the wishes of the residents,” said Lior.
Similarly to Har Nof, residents of the neighborhood in Netanya feared that the name change could affect the current character of the area.
The Jerusalem Naming Committee has been the source of controversy before. In 2010, the committee approved a decision to not name roads in Jerusalem after fallen soldiers, unless a later committee specifically approved the name.