Palestinian children play on a court at a school in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Silwan June 19, 2017. Picture taken June 19, 2017..
(photo credit: REUTERS/AMMAR AWAD)
A decision to name four streets in the predominantly Arab Silwan neighborhood of Jerusalem after Yemenite rabbis who led the small community of Yemenite Jews who lived there in the late 1800s has not been greeted with enthusiasm by everyone.
In the 19th century, the rabbis – Rabbi Avraham Elandaf, Rabbi Yechiel Yitzchak Halevi, Rabbi 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.”
The decision to name the streets after the rabbis was made by a committee comprised of Jerusalem city council members, headed by Mayor Moshe Lion. The decision was not supported unanimously in the committee, with some Jerusalem council members voting against it and condemning the move.
“It was a terrible mistake,” said Jerusalem city council member Laura Wharton (Meretz). “The decision contradicted the recommendations of the professional committee [which checks proposed street names]. It also contradicts previous agreements made with the residents of Silwan. This is the kind of decision that is intended to irritate the local residents. It’s the kind of thing that we don’t need and is doing service to a tiny minority of extreme right-wing, mostly racist Israelis who I think behave in a way that is disgraceful to all of us.”
Wharton compared the decision to a hypothetical scenario, in which a street in an ultra-Orthodox community was named after an international figure despised by the haredi community. She hopes to convince her fellow city council members to reverse the decision in the upcoming city council meeting.
Chaim Silberstein, founder and president of Keep Jerusalem (a nonprofit dedicated to supporting a United Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty), praised the decision, saying, “Historically, this is an area in which Jews were inhabitants. There should be more Jewish residents living there now. This decision definitely helps push towards where the future should be going to.”
In addition to the four streets that will be named after rabbis, one other street will bear a new Hebrew name. A fifth street will be called “Ezrat Nidhim,” honoring the philanthropic organization founded by Yisroel Dov Frumkin, which established the small Jewish-Yemenite community in Silwan in the late-19th century.
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