The Jerusalem municipality on Thursday rescinded its decision to name five streets in a Palestinian neighborhood of East Jerusalem after rabbis and a fifth after a Jewish organization.
In June 2019, the municipality’s name and commemoration committee decided, under pressure from right-wing city council members, to designate the names for five small streets in the Silwan neighborhood. There are currently 12 Jewish families living on those streets in the Batan al-Hawa section of Silwan, along with hundreds of Palestinian families.
The panel had approved the names by a vote of 8 to 2, overruling the opinion of a professional committee that considers proposed street names before the municipal panel approves them. The professional committee had deemed it “inappropriate to give streets Jewish and rabbinical names in neighborhoods where the vast majority of the residents are Arab. This creates unnecessary tension,” it said. Instead, it recommended giving the streets “neutral names that all the residents can live with in peace.”
After the municipal naming committee approved the Jewish names, Mayor Moshe Leon asked it to reconsider, and on Thursday, the panel rescinded its original decision and passed a resolution that it find either neutral or Arab names for the neighborhood’s streets.
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“I welcome this decision, which shouldn’t have needed to be made,” said city councilman Yossi Havilio, who, along with Laura Wharton, was one of the two panel members to vote in June against naming the streets after Jews. “But better late than never.”
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel, which had filed a court petition challenging the initial decision on behalf of 27 Silwan residents, also had mixed praise for Thursday’s action. “It’s good that the municipality came to its senses, but it’s a shame that a petition was necessary to make it understand how condescending, unreasonable and strife-inducing the decision was from the beginning,” the organization said.
In separate action at Thursday’s meeting, the committee approved naming a city square in Jerusalem after Chiune Sugihara, the Japanese vice consul in Kaunas, Lithuania during World War II, who saved thousands of Jews by issuing them visas.