Jerusalem City Council Gives Arab Streets Hebrew Names

Residents oppose the move, but municipality insists names balance out Arab ones assigned in recent weeks.

Olivier Fitoussi

Among heightened tension in Jerusalem, on Sunday the capital’s city council gave Hebrew names to 30 streets in predominately Arab neighborhoods, particularly in Silwan and Sheikh Jarrah. Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem have never had Hebrew names until now. The city had given 60 previously unnamed streets Arab names during the last two weeks.

Municipal officials stated that Sunday night’s decision is part of an ongoing project, in cooperation with Arab residents, to name hundreds of streets in predominantly Arab neighborhoods. Over 800 Arab names have been approved to date. The Hebrew names were given to streets in the heart of the Silwan and Sheikh Jarrah neighborhoods, both of which have Jewish enclaves, as well as to major roads.

Retired judge Jacob Turkel, who heads a consultative group, objected to the decision, as did local residents.

David Koren, the mayor’s advisor on East Jerusalem affairs, told Haaretz that most streets in East Jerusalem didn’t have names until two or three years ago. “We led a campaign, together with neighborhood representatives, and the Arab residents chose the overwhelming majority of names,” he said. “In a few specific areas like City of David or Shimon Hatzadik, a few Hebrew names connected to the Jewish heritage of the place were chosen.”

Emil Salman

Regarding the timing with recent tensions in East Jerusalem, Koren said the process has advanced over a long period. “At the end of the day, what is important is that in City of David,” he added, referring to Silwan, “there should be both Arab and Hebrew names in the same place.”