Activists from Jerusalem Horizons hit the streets of the Jabel Mukabber neighborhood in East Jerusalem on Saturday, 9 April, and put up nine street signs in Arabic and English.
Palestinian activists are working to reclaim Arabic street names in Jerusalem
The organization, founded just two months ago, is working to reclaim the Arabic names of streets in Jerusalem, and provide names for the currently anonymous streets.
"Our main goal is to educate the people about the importance of maintaining the original Arab names," Fakhri Abu-Diab, a resident of East Jerusalem’s Silwan and board member of Jerusalem Horizons, told The Media Line. "I fear the day my son will come home using the Hebrew name for a site."
Since Israel’s occupation of West Jerusalem in 1948 and East Jerusalem in 1967, many thoroughfares and neighborhoods with well known and historic Arabic names have been given new Hebrew ones. The newly formed state of Israel renamed the West Jerusalem neighborhoods of Baqaa, Katamon and Abu-Tor as Geulim, Gonen and Givat Hananiya. Many Jerusalem residents, however, both Palestinian and Jewish, continue calling them by their original names.
When Israeli captured East Jerusalem in 1967, including 28 Palestinian villages, many streets and neighborhoods were never even given official names, either Hebrew or Arabic. Abu-Diab said the fact that his street like many others in the neighborhood has no name causes disruption in postal and other services.
One name given Saturday is Farouk Street, a popular nick name for Omar Ibn Al-Khattab, the Muslim general who conquered Jerusalem in 637 A.D.
"We wish to follow in the footsteps of Omar and return Jerusalem to its Arab roots," Abu-Diab told The Media Line. "We feel that the danger of Judaization has begun to affect the Arab, Islamic and Christian legacies of the holy city. For too long we have settled for condemnations and statements instead of real action on the ground."
Street renaming by Israel is still occurring in Jerusalem’s Old City. Representatives from the Jerusalem Municipality recently installed a sign on the wall of an Old City Palestinian house on Bab Al-Jadeed street, saying that the name of the street is Der Bacillus.
"We plan to expand the initiative to the neighborhoods of Silwan, Sheikh Jarrah and the Old City," he said, referring to the three neighborhoods contested by Israelis and Palestinians. "The names we give the streets are the ones that have been used and recognized by local residents for generations."