Har Nof against ‘dictatorial’ decision to change neighborhood's name

One resident called on representatives of the community to “leave political considerations out of the neighborhood and find other obligations – for your own good.”

A construction site in the neighborhood of Har Nof, Jerusalem. Nov 18, 2015 (photo credit: HALLEL MEIR/TPS)
A construction site in the neighborhood of Har Nof, Jerusalem. Nov 18, 2015
(photo credit: HALLEL MEIR/TPS)
Residents of Jerusalem's Har Nof neighborhood are in an uproar over a sudden decision by Mayor Moshe Lion to change the neighborhood’s name to “Neot Yosef” in memory of both Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, a leader of Sephardi Jewry and the Shas political party, and Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv.
The announcement was made on the sixth anniversary of Ovadia Yosef's passing. The decision will come before the Naming Committee of the Jerusalem Municipality on Tuesday and the official name change should occur in the near future when it is approved by the city council.
The residents of Har Nof who spoke to The Jerusalem Post requested to remain anonymous, as they felt that having their names publicized could put them at risk.
“A name is not something bought with money or given as a gift,” said Y., a neighborhood resident. “A name is something that people who were born there, grew up there, and have lived there for 35 years connected to emotionally. The name influences the character of the neighborhood.”
“In one decision by one person and one other, they decided to change the name of the neighborhood... without our knowledge, without asking us, without consulting with us,” added Y., who called the decision “dictatorial” and “aggressive.”
The neighborhood residents claimed that not even community leaders and representatives were consulted about the decision, and that the decision was not published in newspapers and in public places as required by law. But a spokesperson for the Jerusalem Municipality told the Post that the decision was, in fact, made in coordination with representatives of the community in the neighborhood.
A few Har Nof residents pointed out that when Nazareth Illit decided to change its name, the city first asked the residents what they thought of the idea and it was decided in a referendum.
Residents of the neighborhood have opened a petition on the website Atzuma against Lion’s decision to change the name of Har Nof. As of Monday afternoon, over 2,400 people had signed the petition.
“The petition opened among the people of the neighborhood and residents of Jerusalem proves, like thousands of witnesses, to the outrage among residents for this strange and delusional decision,” said one resident, who asked the mayor to change the decision or to at least ask the residents what they think and have them vote on it instead of “acting like a dictator.”
One resident called on the representatives of the community to “leave political considerations out of the neighborhood and find other obligations – for your own good.”
They stressed that this forced decision isn’t the way of the religious leaders that the municipality is trying to perpetuate. “Respect for others, consideration of others' feelings [and] avoiding harming human dignity will be a remembrance and continuation of their glorious heritage that they instilled in us, not anger, frustration and controversy.”
“The pleasant and pastoral name that has stood for 35 years since the founding of the neighborhood is a part of the neighborhood’s DNA, and the character of the neighborhood is one that gives residents a feeling of independence and homeliness,” said one resident. “A process (politically, in its essence) of changing the name without receiving approval from the residents is a process that has in it violent aggression against peaceful residents, and control over their way of life and the character of the place they live.”
Other residents expressed similar concerns to the Post, pointing out that a decision that affects so many people like this decision to change the name of an entire neighborhood shouldn’t be placed just in the hands of the mayor or even just of the representatives of the neighborhood, but rather should be decided by the residents themselves.
The residents stressed that their opposition to the name change has no connection to their respect for Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. They are protesting the fact that the decision was made without consulting them at all, when the name affects the character of the neighborhood that they themselves live in.
The meeting of the Naming Committee will take place at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, November 5.
The municipality spokesperson said that the decision has not yet been approved, and is currently just a proposition.
“The proposition will go up before the Naming Committee [on Tuesday], and if it is approved by the members of the committee the public will be a full partner in the final decision through questionnaires and activity in the neighborhood,” a spokesperson for the municipality said. “Any resident who wants to bring up their opinion, will have their opinion heard willingly.”