Text size

Dr. Avshalom Kor, the expert on Hebrew grammar and semantics, whose name perhaps is a household word for his language corner on Israel Radio, is proposing Hebracizing the names of all 19 stations in Jerusalem's new light rail, even in Arab areas and never mind any non-Hebrew landmarks nearby.

Kor puts forth his ideas in a proposal to the joint governmental-municipal task force overseeing the light rail project. It will cross Jerusalem from Mount Herzl in the west to Pisgat Ze'ev in the east, passing through some neighborhoods that are mostly Arab.

Kor says he prefers names that "endow Israel's legacy."

The proposal most likely to prove controversial is the station in Shoafat, a neighborhood next to French Hill. The specific location of the station is known to the locals as Tel El Ful. Kor sneers at the name and proposes calling the station Givat Binyamin (Benjamin Hill), after the tribe of King Saul. Kor dedicates about half of his proposal to explaining the name change.

"Tel el Ful is the Arab name of our capital in the days of King Saul," writes Kor, underlining the words "Arab" and "our". "The Hebrew name was Givat Shaul or Givat Binyamin, after the king's tribe. The name Givat Shaul is already taken by a neighborhood in West Jerusalem, therefore the station will be known as Givat Binyamin."

Kor says that giving the station an Arab name would encourage illegal construction by Palestinians. "When we returned to this historic hill after the Six-Day War, it was bare except for King Hussein's then unfinished villa at the top," Kor says. "All the houses covering it now have been built, to my knowledge, illegally."

Illegal construction

He adds: "If it were not for the extensive illegal construction there, the hill today would bear the prestigious name of Givat Binyamin" - and he underlines the words "not" and "prestigious."

Kor says: "Therefore, any potential request by the residents to give the station an Arab name would mean not just eradicating the Jewish past of the first capital of the Kingdom of Israel, but also acknowledging (yet again) the illegal construction in the area."

Other station names likely to draw protest include Bikur Holim (instead of King George after the main thoroughfare); Davidka, after the famous Israeli mortar from the War of Independence (rather than Jaffa Road); and Sha'ar Shchem, "after the first Hebrew city, capital of Samaria," rather than the widely known name Damascus Gate, which is known in Arabic as Ba'ab El Amud.

Kor also suggests naming another station in East Jerusalem Shimon Hatzadik after the nearby tomb of Simon the Just. Shimon Hatzadik is also the name of a Jewish neighborhood that existed on the site until the war of 1948 in the Arab neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, which is the site of protest over Jews moving in while Palestinian residents are expelled.

Other names are more likely to confuse than provoke. The station on Hanevi'im (Prophets Street), Kor says, should be named Shivtei Yisrael (Tribes of Israel), "because the prophets are buried by the City of David and on the Mount of Olives, not along this street." A station near the well-known Jerusalem center of the Yad Sarah organization will be named after the neighborhood, Yefe Nof.

Sources involved in the project said they would prefer naming stations after nearby institutions and landmarks, as is popularly done throughout the world. The naming committee, chaired by Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, will be discussing the proposals soon.