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Monday, August 12, 2013

Street Names in Jerusalem©

It is a wonderful feeling to have the zechus to walk along the streets of Yerushalayim and view her sapphire sky. The street names of the city are rich in history and general information; and merely strolling along Jerusalem’s streets and taking the time to read the street signs makes one wise.

Two Municipal Names Committees determine and select the streets names in Jerusalem. These committees are external and independent, to avoid extraneous pressures. Any citizen can suggest a name for a city street. The committees will then be the final ones to approve or reject the idea.

Street names are chosen by taking into account many factors. There is usually a relationship between an area’s residents and the name chosen, as the committee takes into consideration the type of population inhabiting that district. For instance, in a neighbourhood like Ramat Shlomo, where the population is chareidi, one finds street names such as Chazon Ish, Rav Zolti, Ha’admor miLubavitch, etc.

Also affecting the street name is the history and geography of the area where the street is located. Often, names are given which relate to famous sites that are nearby. For instance, in the valley below Abu Tor is Ir David; therefore many of Abu Tor’s street names relate to David Hamelech. The street names include David’s ancestors Nachshon, Naomi and Yishai; his sister Zuriah; and the names of his wives. Streets named for water sources in Ir David are also found in Abu Tor, e.g., Ein Rogel.

In addition, the topography of the area may be taken into account — examples being Rechov Sulam Yaakov (Yaakov’s ladder) in Ramot (a street comprising a series of ascending steps similar to a ladder), or Hapisgah (peak) in Bayit Vegan (a little hill).

Another factor in the names given in certain areas might be the view. A case in point: Arnona, at 800 meters above sea level (one of the highest points in Jerusalem), has a panoramic view of the Judean Desert and Gush Etzion. Therefore, some streets in Arnona are called by the names of Jewish settlements that fell in 1948 in those areas. Thus, we find Kfar Etzion, Massu’ot Yitzchak, Ein Tzurim, Revadim, Kalyah and Beit HaArvah. Because of the neighborhood’s vista, one of the main streets is Ein Gedi, and there is also a Yam Hamelach Street.

Above the Armon Hanatziv neighborhood stands the Armon Hanatziv, the High Commissioner’s Palace, built during the British Mandate. Therefore, many names of the underground members killed by the English (or whose death is connected with them) within and outside Eretz Yisrael are memorialized in the street names of the area. These include Dov Gruner, Olei Hagardom, and David Raziel, among others.

In most neighborhoods or areas, streets were named according to a common subject. If you have a broad knowledge of Tanach, or history, botany and other subjects, then often you can know in which area to find the street you need. However, even if you do not know, just living or visiting the Holy City will enhance your knowledge.

For example in the Geulim (Baka) district, the streets were named for the Shevatim: Yehudah, Naftali, Levi, Asher, and so on. The neighborhood also boasts the names of the Shoftim (Judges) such as Barak, Yiftach, and others. A road in Emek Refaim is called Rechov Rachel Imeinu since it leads to Kever Rachel, and a street adjacent to it is Rechov Ruth (on the way to Beit Lechem!). The streets around it are named for the kings of Yehudah, e.g., Asa, Chizkiyahu Hamelech. Then we find those bearing the names of Tanna’im: Rabi Meir, Rabi Akiva, etc.

In Kerem Avraham (Geulah), streets were named for the Nevi’im of Trei Assar (Amos, Yoel, Malachi, Yonah, etc.), and streets bordering the neighborhood are Major Nevi’im: Yirmiyahu, and Yechezkel which intersects with Shmuel Hanavi. Leading to Geulah from the city center is Yeshayahu, which starts at Rechov Haneviim.

Jerusalem’s city streets commemorate the names of individuals, organizations, places, and objects. Street names fall into several categories:

Names of People
Many streets in Jerusalem — in fact, most — were named after people.

There are numerous Biblical figures (Devorah Haneviah, Tziporah, Ezra, Yiftach, etc.); Tanna’im, Amora’im, Geonim, etc. (Hillel, Ben Azai, Ben Baba, Bruriah, Hage’onim); Rabbanim (Rav Shmuel Salant, Chaim Ozer, Sonenfeld, Dushinsky); Amorim (Ha’admor MiGur, Ha’admor MiChechenov and so on): Also, sometimes a street will be called by the name of a sefer someone wrote (e.g., Zayit Raanan, Dovev Meisharim, Igrot Moshe, Panim Meirot, etc.).

Many streets memorialize martyrs: Ha’asarah [Ten Martyrs], Ha’ayin Chet [78 killed in Hadassah massacre], Ha’arbaa [four soldiers who fell near Neve Yaakov during the Six Day War], etc.

The Builders of Jerusalem’s new city are well represented: Sir Moses Montefiore and his wife Yehudit, Yoel Salomon (one of the founders of Nachalat Shiva), Nissan Bak (who built Kiryah Ne’emanah), Yosef Navon (initiator of Machaneh Yehudah and first railroad to Jerusalem), and others.

Famous figures who helped the city are also commemorated. These include Ha’achot Selma (Nurse Selma of Shaare Zedek) and Kagan, named for Dr. Helena Kagan, a doctor for 50 years in Jerusalem.

Politicians and Zionist leaders were honored on what are seen as larger traffic arteries, such as Kvish Begin, Golda Meir Boulevard, Sderot Herzl.

A street might be named for those who once lived on it. Examples include Rechov Harav Kook, Rechov Ha’erez (initials of Harav Isser Zalman Meltzer’s name), Ticho (famous eye doctor), Rechov Harav Aryeh, named for Rav Aryeh Levin (“father of the prisoners”), and on and on. Alternatively, the one who built the area the street is found in is sometimes honored, such as Rechov Beit David, which is named for David Ryan, founder of Beit David in 1877. Also a street can  be named for one who built a building on it. An example being Rechov Rav Shlomo where the Admor Mi’Zvahil Rav Shlomo Goldman built a yeshiva.

Incidently, in addition to Rechov Ha’erez, there is a street named Even Ha’ezel after the sefer of Rav Isser Zalman, in the Ezras Torah neighborhood.

In Rechavia, in almost all cases, the common street theme revolves around scholars of the Golden Age in Spain: Ben Maimon, Ramban, Ibn Shaprut, Radak, Ibn Ezra, Ibn Gvirol, Alhariz, Alfasi, and so on.

One of the few exceptions is Menachem Ussishkin. On the occasion of his 70th birthday in 1933, Menachem Ussishkin — using his political influence to tilt the decision in his favour — demanded that the street where he resided (previously named Yehudah Halevi) be named after himself. To make sure there would be no mistake, Ussishkin brought in Armenian artists to fashion coloured  ceramic signs for the building corners, bearing the new name of the street.

In order not to confuse the public, if two streets are named for people (or other things) with similar names, one of the names is slightly changed. For instance, instead of Rechov Rambam, the street is called “Sderot Ben Maimon” to prevent any mix-up with Rechov Ramban. Similarly, a new avenue in Jerusalem named to commemorate President Chaim Herzog, was called “Sixth President Boulevard” to avoid confusion with “Herzog Boulevard,” an older street named for the president’s father, Chief Rabbi Harav Isaac Halevi Herzog. The Jerusalem street named for the Harav Tzvi Yehudah Kook was called Sderot Harav Tzvi Yehudah in order not to be confused with Rechov Harav Kook named after his father, Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook.

In the neighborhoods of eastern Jerusalem, streets are named after characters sacred to Arabs, such as Sheikh Jarrah, Sultan Suleiman (Suleiman the Magnificent), Berbers, and so on.

In the city center, a street that was paved in the ’80s was built through the area that had been a German consulate before and during World War II. The Irgun blew the consulate up when it flew a flag with a swastika. The new street was named for Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, as he was the antithesis of the evil Nazis. He is credited with saving at least 100,000 Jews.

Usually, naming streets after a person occurs after he/she has passed away. However, there are several exceptions. With the conquest of Palestine by the British from the Turks, Allenby Square (called Kikar Ztal from 1967) was named in honour of General Edmund Allenby. In exchange a square on Torah Mizion Street was given the name Allenby Square.  


Some street names of Jerusalem represent various trades. Examples of these are Hasolelim, for those who paved the roads of Eretz Yisrael, and Ha’adrichal, the architect. Another example is
Hakablan (which means building contractor), located in Har Nof.

There are also streets named for institutions and businesses which function in the locale.
These include Rechov Hayeshivah, named for Chevron Yeshivah, Geulah, which is located on that street. Hanagar is named for the carpentry shops on the street, Hamusachim has numerous
car mechanics on the street, and Charashei Barzel is named for the many iron craftsmen working in the area. Amelim (toilers) in Beis Yisrael is a general name for the many workshops on the street. Harechev is located in the area of the automobile-licensing office and Rechov Harakevet signifies that the train line used to run near here.

Biblical and Halachic Concepts

Many street names are based on Torah concepts.Examples include: Sanhedrin, Shema, Hatechelet (blue tread on tzitzis), Oneg Shabbat, HaDaf HaYomi, Chevrat Tehillim and Chevrat Shas. Sometimes phrases of Tehillim will be used; e.g. Mizgav LaDach

Many streets in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem have names which relate the Beis Hamikdash: Ha’omer, Habikurim, Hatamid, Ha’ugav, Hakinor, Mishmerot Hakehunah (shifts of the priesthood), and more.

Historical Concepts

Jerusalem boasts many streets based on concepts from the history of the Jews from times of the
Tanach (Shirat Hayam) and onwards. For instance there is a street called Vaad Arba Ha’aratzot,
Mishpat Dreyfus for the Dreyfus case in 1894, and Asirei Tzion for the Russian Jews who were refused exit by the Communist regime. Many show the history of the state; these include Kaf Tet b’November (the day in 1947 the U.N. approved the Partition Plan, to enable the establishment of the State of Israel) and Kanfei Nesharim for the bringing of Yemenite Jews to the new state. In

Katamon most of the streets are named for the 1948 war, including Palmach and Netiv Zohara (the IDF’s first female pilot).

Many streets, particularly in the neighborhoods built after the Six Day War (Ramat Eshkol, French
Hill, Pisgat Ze’ev), are named for events related to that war. Street names include Ramat Hagolan and Sheshet Hayamim. There are also streets named for the IDF commanders: Moshe Dayan, Uzi Narkiss — and troops and units that participated in the war.

Flora and Fauna

The seven species of Eretz Yisrael are represented in street names. Olive-related names are
the most common street name in the country; they exist in 127 places, including in Jerusalem’s Mekor Baruch — Rechov Hazayit. Names of flowers abound: Kalanit (anemone), Harakefet (cyclamen), Harotem (broom bush), Hasachlav (orchid), Bosmat (impatiens), Pirchei Chen (beautiful wildflowers of the Jerusalem hills), and many more.

There are also many streets named for spices: Ketoret, Hamor, Nataf (myrrh), Ketzia, Afarsimon.

Other streets are named for trees: Harduf (orleander), Ha’arazim (cedars), Ha’armonim (plane tree), Brosh (cypress), etc. Some of the streets named for animals — many of which streets are located close to the Jerusalem zoo — are: Ha’ayalah (deer), Hatzvi (deer), Hadov (bear). Among the birds we find Haya’en (ostrich), Ha’anafa (heron), and more.

While in Atrot a street is named symbolically Pri Amal [fruit of labor] in the hope the businesses there will flourish, Machaneh Yehudah’s marketplace is traversed by lanes named for the actual produce sold there. Examples are Ha’agas, (pear) [in truth, this name has not existed for years, ever since the municipality changed its name to Yaakov Eliyahu Banai Street, after a musical family’s founding father], Ha’afarsek (peach), Hashezif (plum), Hashaked (almond), Gezer (carrot), etc.

The area’s main street is Rechov Etz Chaim, as the cheder of Etz Chaim was behind the shuk and all the streets in the shuk belonged to it. The hanhalah (directors) rented out the stalls to make money to support the cheder.


In Gilo, streets are named for gemstones of the choshen: Yahalom (diamond), Odem (ruby), topaz, Tarshish, etc). In Pizgat Ze’ev some street are named for the signs of the Zodiac — Mazal Aryeh, Mazal Keshet, and the like.

Names of Places

Sometimes street were called after the direction of the historical cities the street led to. Examples of these include Rechov Jaffo, Nablus Street, Derech Hebron, Derech Beit Lechem, Derech Yericho, and Gaza (aka Aza) Road. Towns, rivers, and other geographic and topographic features of Eretz Yisrael are also used. These include Kfar Etzion, Ein Tzurim, Be’er Sheva, Eilat,
Hayarden, Hacarmel, and many more).

Places that people came from are also represented in Jerusalem street names. Exampls are Kehilat Ungvar and Kehilat Shum.

Named in Thanks

Street names in Jerusalem’s Kiryat Menachem are a virtual tour of Latin America. Nearly the entire neighborhood (as well as half of Kiryat Yovel) is named in gratitude to countries, especially those in South and Central America, that voted in 1947 in favour of the establishment of the State of Israel. Names include Rechov Colombia, Rechov Mexico, Rechov Nicaragua, Rechov Panama, Rechov Venezuela, and so on. Among the other countries named are Iceland and Dahomey (now called Republic of Benin in West Africa).

After the establishment of the state, many names of Jerusalem’s main streets were replaced, to instil into people’s consciences enterprises and individuals of Jewish and Zionist history. For example, the name of Chancellor Street was returned to its former designation, Rechov Strauss; Princess Mary Street became Rechov Shlomtzion Hamalkah; Melisende Street became Rechov Helena Hamalkah; and St. Paul had its name altered to Shivtei Yisrael (“Tribes of Israel”).

King George Street was changed to Rechov Melech Dovid by Jewish soldiers during the 1948 war. This won widespread public support. However, after the state was established, and the starting of diplomatic relations with Britain, the British asked for the street to revert back to King George’s name, and the municipality of the city agreed. Thereafter another street, St. Julian, became Rechov Melech Dovid.

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