After years of wrangling, the Herzliya municipality decided yesterday to name a street after Yeshayahu Leibowitz - the first time an Israeli city has chosen to commemorate the left-wing Orthodox Jewish philosopher this way.
Leibowitz was a controversial figure because of his sharp criticism of the army and government. According to yesterday's decision, passed by a majority vote in the city council with two members opposed, a section of a road in the south of the city will be named after Leibowitz, who died in 1994.
"We're proud to be the first city to commemorate this great man," Herzliya Mayor Yael German said. "He was one of the greatest intellectuals of his generation, a man who contributed greatly to the Zionist enterprise, a commander of army forces in Jerusalem in the War of Independence, and an educator of philosophical thought and ethics to generations of students."
But an opposition leader on the council, Yaron Olmi, opposed the decision, arguing that "the message to the public is that harsh statements against soldiers and the government may be accepted with understanding and agreement. It's not for nothing that this matter hasn't gone over in any other city. I think it's an embarrassment for the city of Herzliya."
Meanwhile, it turns out that on some of the signs on Naomi Shemer Street, on the section from Jewish State Street to Abba Eban Street, the songwriter's name has been erased. At the council meeting that deliberated on Leibowitz, maps of the city showed that this stretch of street was never officially named for Shemer.
"While these signs were not posted by a council decision, we have no intention of taking them down," the municipality said.
This was not the first time that commemorating Leibowitz was raised at the Herzliya city council. In 2007, the street-naming committee tried to call an unnamed stretch of road after him.
In the meeting's minutes, Zvi Hadar, a council member who now serves as deputy mayor, is quoted as saying, "We will not commemorate only people about whom there is a consensus." He offered as an the example heavy opposition to naming streets after the Herut party and right-wing figures who are commemorated on street signs around the country.
In Jerusalem as well, tempers have flared around whether to memorialize Leibowitz on street signs. In 2007, the street-naming committee rejected such a proposal. Council member Sa'ar Netanel (Meretz ) argued that the fact that council members prevented the naming of a street after him was proof that the city was becoming more ultra-Orthodox.