Activists 'Rename' Tel Aviv Streets to Honor Jews With Roots in Mideast, North Africa

It's not just Mizrahi Jews the activists are promoting; they want streets named after Arabs and Ethiopian Jews, too

Several major Tel Aviv streets were renamed Sunday night – for a few hours anyway – as two rights groups pasted new names on street signs, mostly of Jewish artists and intellectuals with roots in the Middle East and North Africa.

The groups are the Achoti women's organization and Lo Nehmadim, whose name, which means "they're not nice," is how Golda Meir once referred to Mizrahi activists when she was prime minister decades ago.

Thus Allenby Street became Vicki Shiran Street, Sheinkin Street became Baba Sali Street and Hacarmel Street became Ofra Haza Street. There were many other examples.

The street where Finance Minister Yair Lapid lives, Feinstein Street, became Not Nice Street. Gritty south Tel Aviv wasn't ignored; for example, Hatikva Street became Tikva Levi Street after the educator and feminist who died a few months ago.

There has been a steady exclusion of cultural, ethnic and national communities that manifests itself in the public sphere, said Achoti director Shula Keshet, who helped organize the protest.

The number of Tel Aviv streets named for Mizrahim is minuscule compared to those named for Ashkenazim. Jacqueline Kahanoff, for example, who appears on one of our signs, was an acclaimed writer and researcher who was born in Egypt and who for a few hours last night got the attention she deserves in the public sphere of Hebrew culture.

In September 2010, Tel Aviv's commemoration and names committee approved new names for nine streets and squares, almost all of them after male Ashkenazim – Jews with roots in Europe.

Several years ago we sent a list of suggested names to city hall, said Keshet. But our demand is not just for Tel Aviv; we want Mizrahim, Ethiopians and Arabs represented all over the country.

Protesters pasting names of Sephardi Jews on Israeli street signs, June 9, 2013.
Daniel Bar-On
Daniel Bar-On
Daniel Bar-On