Israel to Add Two Arabs to Committee for Naming Towns, Sites Following Criticism

The Israeli cabinet had made earlier changes amid demands for diversity, but it was particularly slow to add Arab Israelis

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Naftali Bennett, center, leading a cabinet meeting last week.
Naftali Bennett, center, leading a cabinet meeting last week. Credit: Emil Salman
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

The cabinet will add two Arab Israelis to the committee for naming towns, villages, nature reserves and other sites, following criticism from ministers from Meretz, the farthest-left Zionist party in Naftali Bennett's government.

The cabinet said it would tweak the roster in the next two weeks. Before the change, the ministers were due to approve the 28-member committee Sunday.

A few weeks ago, Meretz ministers opposed a previous list presented to the cabinet, claiming that it leaned right. Their opposition delayed the vote and led to a shuffle, but still no Arab Israelis were added.

The panel, whose members serve for five years, will also name places like regions, interchanges and historical sites including fortresses and ruins.

Regional Cooperation Minister Esawi Freige of Meretz, who led the effort to add Arab voices, said the two new members would provide "the Arab history and perspective of different sites .... The Arab nature of this country is an integral part of its character. It's linked to every ruin, stream and spring, so it’s important that Arab citizens are part of this committee."

The panel members must be approved by every new government. The current committee has members whose term expired during the two years when Israel had four general elections and a caretaker government whose authority was limited. The other members' terms expire in the near future.

The committee to be voted on includes representatives of the Jewish National Fund and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority. Its chairman is expected to remain Prof. Moshe Sharon, an expert on the history of religions and the Holy Land under Islamic rule.

Other proposed members include Prof. Yoel Elitzur, an expert on biblical geography, the Bible, Hebrew and Semitic languages; Prof. Shulamit Elizur, an expert on ancient and medieval Hebrew poetry; Avshalom Kor, a linguist; Emily Amrusi, a journalist; and Galila Ron-Feder Amit, a children's-book author.

Recent changes include the addition of jurist Yofi Tirosh and novelist Yishai Sarid.

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