Group Demands Rabbis’ Names Be Banned From Yerushalayim Streets

east jerusalem
View of the City of David, in the Arab neighborhood of Silwan, in eastern Yerushalayim. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

The Israel Civil Rights Association has demanded that the Yerushalayim municipality rescind its decision to name five streets in the Silwan (City of David) neighborhood after Yemenite Rabbis and figures. The decision to approve the naming of the streets was made last week by a municipal committee that deals with street names, and was approved by Mayor Moshe Leon. The committee approved the names by a vote of eight to two.

Some of the streets in question currently do not have names, while one is named after an Arab family. They are located in the historic Yemenite Quarter of the neighborhood. The area was populated by Jews for hundreds of years, until they were forced to leave in 1948, when Jordanian forces occupied the area. The streets will be named after the Ezra Hanidachim organization, a Yemenite humanitarian group that assisted immigrants in the 19th century; Harav Sa’adia Maimoni, a leader of the second wave of immigration of Yemenite immigrants in the late 1800s; Harav Avraham Elnadaf, who established the Shivat Tziyon organization to acquire agricultural land for Yemenite immigrants; Harav Yahya Yitzchak Halevi, leader of the kehillah in the Yemenite town of San’a; and Harav Shalom Alsheich Halevi, one of the heads of the Yemenite community in Yerushalayim at the beginning of the 20th century.

In a letter to the mayor, the Association said that despite its history, “the area is now occupied by a large majority of Palestinians. Naming streets after Jewish Rabbis is a political act bordering on radical unreasonableness, and was taken against the advice of legal experts, who said that the naming of the streets did not serve the residents.”

Commenting on the name change, Yerushalayim City Council member Aryeh King said that “I see the naming of the streets as another step in the imposing of Israeli sovereignty on these areas and making them into Jewish neighborhoods. I voted for this name change and will vote for others, to change the names of streets currently named for Arabs. I would have expected the leftists to at least support the changing of the names of several streets in areas that were historically Jewish.”

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