Wife of Har Nof terrorism victim: neighborhood name change ‘disrespectful’

‘This was a terrorist attack on us, and it shows contempt for all of us in the neighborhood that they want to erase the name of the neighborhood’

har nof ceremony 7 days after terror attack (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
har nof ceremony 7 days after terror attack
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
As residents of Jerusalem’s Har Nof neighborhood continue fighting a decision by the municipality to change their neighborhood’s name to Neot Yosef, the widow of Rabbi Yechiel Rotman, one of the victims of the Har Nof massacre in 2014, stood before the city’s Naming Committee to voice her opposition to the decision.
In the terrorist attack that claimed the lives of five Har Nof residents and one police officer, Risa Rotman’s husband was stabbed twice and remained comatose for a year before passing away. For Rotman, the name Har Nof is tied with the memory of the terrorist attack, and the attempt to change the neighborhood’s name shows disrespect for those impacted by the attack.
“This was a terrorist attack on us, and it shows contempt for all of us in the neighborhood that they want to erase the name of the neighborhood,” Rotman said at the committee meeting last week. “I think it is contemptuous. [It shows] contempt for the families and for all the residents of the neighborhood. Contempt not just for the residents of the neighborhood, but for all those who are connected to the neighborhood. I think it’s simply disrespectful.”
Rotman told the Naming Committee she believes 80% of Har Nof residents are against the name change. The other 20% are not necessarily supportive of the name change, but they may not care, she said.
Last November, the Jerusalem Naming Committee approved a motion to change the name of the Har Nof neighborhood to Neot Yosef, after former Sephardi chief rabbi and Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who passed away in 2013.
Although Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, who passed away in 2012, 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 Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. One Har Nof resident hinted that Elyashiv may have been mentioned in an attempt to appease Ashkenazi residents of the neighborhood.
Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Leon, who was present at the meeting, told Rotman the municipality remembers the attack and the victims and would take her words into consideration.
“First off, I want to say to you that we remember that day well, that day, that terrible morning and the continuation afterward,” he said. “I wanted to say that the victims are in our hearts to this day. We remember them and come to events in their memory. We will take everything you said and decide on it.”
Har Nof residents were not permitted to attend the meeting and were put in a side room with a live stream that was plagued with technical issues.
Attorneys Yehoshua Liberman and Avi Shaun, who are representing the neighborhood’s residents, said in a statement: “Residents of the neighborhood of Har Nof arrived today to speak from the bottom of their hearts before the mayor, and the opposition committee is against the unprecedented decision to change the name of an old and important neighborhood in the capital that was made against the will of the residents of the neighborhood and through an invalid and illegal process.”
Residents of the neighborhood said they support the desire to memorialize Rabbi Ovadia Yosef and have offered alternative options to do so.
“There is no doubt that the current decision that was made, while grossly disregarding the wishes of the neighborhood residents themselves and their feelings, is not a fitting memorial. It definitely does not honor the memory and works of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef,” the attorneys said.
The residents are planning on bringing the case before a court if the municipality continues to insist on the name change, they added.
About 30 Har Nof residents representing different religious and ethnic sectors attended a meeting of the committee in November. The residents of Har Nof who have spoken to The Jerusalem Post have requested to remain anonymous. They felt that having their names publicized could put them at risk.
The municipality claimed it would publish an official announcement in newspapers and in the neighborhood. Har Nof residents told the Post that this did not occur. The committee is obligated to invite representatives of the neighborhood to a meeting to express opposition to the decision. But it is currently unclear who they will 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.”
Residents warned that the decision would influence their vote in the next municipal election. Lion beat independent, secular rival Ofer Berkovitch by 2.9% in the 2018 election.
Residents responded with outrage to Lion’s original announcement about the name change, claiming the municipality did not consult with them or their representatives before making the decision. The municipality ignored their opinions about the change, they said. The logistical issues, such as changing mailing addresses, also bother them, they said.
The public would be “a full partner in the final decision through questionnaires and activity in the neighborhood,” a municipality spokesperson told the Post in November. “Any resident who wants to bring up their opinion will have their opinion heard willingly.”
Some Har Nof residents claimed the decision to change the neighborhood’s name was connected to Shas, a complaint that has come up in other name-change incidents in Israel.