What’s in a name? Well, plenty if Israel Transport Minister Israel (or is it Yisrael) Katz has anything to say about it. Katz, a strong right-winger and well known for his often controversial opinions about the Land of Israel (which in his mind includes the entire map of Israel, including Gaza and the West Bank, as well as most of Jordan).
Katz is now trying to push a bill through the Knesset that will require all English versions of road signs, such as Jerusalem, Tiberius, and Caesarea, to be changed to transliterations of the Hebrew version; meaning that Jerusalem will now be spelled Yerushalayim, Tiberius Tiveriya, and so on. Nazareth will become Natsrat and Caesarea will become Kesariya. Arab versions of these names will also be changed to “help bring about more uniformity” according to Yeshaayahu Ronen, head of the ministry’s Transportation Planning Department.
Arab Knesset members, most notably Dr. Ahmad Tibi (United Arab List , Ta’al), denounced the proposed changed as “a blatant de-legitimizing of the Arab language in Israel”. Tibi, who was interviewed along with Katz on Channel 2 TV, said that this will never come to pass” and Al-Quds (the Arab name for Jerusalem) will remain Al-Quds, along with other Arab names of towns, such as Shefa-Amr (the Arab name for Shafaram)”.
In a way, the idea might help making road signs easier to read, as there are often many versions of some names, such as Caesarea, which is often called Qesarya, Qesariyya and Ceysaria.
The political ramifications of objections by Tibi and other Arab parliamentarians are obvious; and if this new bill includes towns in the West Bank, then Arab names like Nablus will become the Hebrew biblical name Shechem. During their television appearance together, MK Tibi said that the government might do well to consider the logistical and financial aspects of such a move “and spend the money that would be required for all these sign changes on better uses, such as improving the infrastructures of Arab towns”. Minister of Minority Affairs Avishay Braverman, appears to be in agreement with MK Tibi, and added that the money that would be spent on such a project should be used to “install much needed signs in Arab communities”.