Mixed signals

The new Jerusalem signs may prove less than helpful to those who do not know Hebrew or are unable to cope with creative English spellings.

In recent weeks, the municipality has been putting up large signs bearing the names of Jerusalem's various neighborhoods. Designed to help residents and tourists orient themselves, the signs may prove less than helpful to those who do not know Hebrew or are unable to cope with creative English spellings. Welcome to Kiryat Ben Guryon (Ben-Gurion), En (Ein) Kerem, Hamoshava Hayevanit (Greek Colony) and Hamoshava Hagermanit (German Colony). The English on the signs has not escaped the attention of In Jerusalem readers. Efrat resident Jonathan Feldstein contacted the Jerusalem Municipality to point out the absurdity of some of the spellings. "The conventional spelling of the name of our first prime minister is 'Ben-Gurion' (as in the airport, the university and on numerous streets and locations throughout Israel)," he wrote. "Who was the genius who approved 'Guryon'? Unless of course, the prominent district encompassing the state's government buildings was named for our first prime minister's less well-known third cousin, Ira Ben-Guryon, a one-time well-known cattle rancher from Minsk and taxi driver who set out to build the Negev following David's vision and was never heard of again." In response, the municipality wrote: "According to the rules established by the Academy of the Hebrew Language for transliteration from Hebrew to English, the Hebrew letter 'yod' when it is a consonant is to be written in English as 'y.' When 'yod' is a vowel, it is to be written in English as 'i' - for example, as in 'Kiryat.'" City councillor Pepe Alalu (Meretz) was seen this past week photographing some of the signs. "I photographed them because they are not written correctly in English and I am turning the photos over to the municipality. There has to be more supervision over how signs are written in English. The city has to put more thought into ensuring that signs are written correctly. If we are already investing the money, the signs should be done right. They can't be left like this." When queried by IJ about the signs, the municipal spokesman's office replied: "The type of signs and their design are determined in accordance with Transportation Ministry guidelines, which include background, letter size and color. The signs were erected following numerous requests from visitors and tourists to put neighborhood names at their entrances in order to make it easier for people to find their way around. "Appearing on the signs is the official name of the neighborhood in Hebrew and in English as it is commonly pronounced by residents and visitors. The English names were written as the Hebrew names are pronounced in order to make it easier for visitors and to prevent misunderstandings by tourists. With respect to spelling mistakes, the Transportation and Infrastructure Development Department will make a comprehensive check of the signs and, if necessary, make corrections."