The Israeli government has begun omitting the Arabic name for Jerusalem from its street signs, erasing not only the language from the Israeli consciousness, but Palestinian identity itself.
By Umar Al-Ghubari
Driving towards Jerusalem on Highway 1, you may notice a relatively new phenomenon taking place on the road signs directing you to the city. Readers of Arabic will see that the name of Jerusalem in Arabic has undergone a change: the word in brackets, القدس, Al-Quds, which appeared there until very recently, no longer exists on the new signs that have recently been put up by the roadsides in those sections where highway’s recent expansion been completed.
The name of Jerusalem in modern Arabic is Al-Quds, which means “The Holy.” The root q-d-s [in Arabic] is similar to the root q-d-sh in Hebrew, and the name is derived from the city’s name “Beit El-Maqdis” which was in use even in the 7th century together with the Roman name Aelia [Capitolina]. The name Urshalīm appears in the Arabic version of the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. Partial translations of the New Testament into Arabic were begun as early as the 7th century. The first translation of the Hebrew Bible into Arabic was probably completed early in the 9th century by a Muslim cleric, but the most regarded and important translation is that of the Jewish philosopher Sayeed Alfayumi, better known by his Hebrew name, R. Saadia Gaon (882–942). Both Urshalīm and the Hebrew name Yerushalayīm most probably stem from the town’s Canaanite name, Rushalimom, or its Jebusite name Urusalima, from the third and second millennia before the common era.
The State of Israel, and the Zionist movement before that, have acted, and are still acting, to erase the Arabic names from the land and to replace them with Jewish–Hebrew names. The work of renaming was assigned to the government’s naming committee, established in 1950 as a successor of the “JNF Committee for Names of Settlements,” which was formed in 1925. The committee’s tasks include giving names to new towns, intersections and bypasses, parks, springs, streams, etc. Since its establishment the committee has determined thousands of new names. Although there are more methods than one for determining the names, the purpose is one: the Judaization of the land and the erasure of Arab identity from it and from the mind.
At times the committee has based its decision on names from...Read More