For Upper Nazareth residents who preferred to change the name of their town, it was a landslide: In the results of the voting, Nof Hagalil won the vote by a majority of about 4 to 1. Out of 10,242 residents who voted, 8,059 went for the name change, while just 2,055 voted to keep the original name of the city.
The change can be implemented immediately, as the use of Nof Hagalil by the town was already pre-approved by the Prime Minister’s Office and the Interior Ministry. No day has been set for the official changeover yet.
The vote represents a victory for Mayor Ronen Palut, who made the name change a central part of his campaign. According to pro-change advocates, the city suffers from a negative reputation among Israelis, who often conflate it with its bigger and older “cousin.” Nazareth, of course, has been in existence in one form or another for thousands of years, but the fact that it is a strictly Arab town discourages Jews from considering Upper Nazareth as a place to live.
The city got its name in 1956, when it was given to indicate that it shared the historic aura of Nazareth, but was a separate entity. Many Israelis, though, conflate the two, and those in favor of changing the name say that they are tired of trying to point out that their town has nothing to do with the nearby Arab city. In addition, there are often mix-ups among delivery services, and mail meant for one town often ends up in the other.
“Nazareth is the biggest Arab town in Israel, and Upper Nazareth is the biggest Jewish city in the Galilee,” Palut said. “We have wonderful neighborly relations with Nazareth, but we are two separate jurisdictions with separate personalities, communities, and everything else. The name of our city should reflect that.”