Global, Israel

A Hill of Beans in This Crazy World

Before 1948, both the Jewish and the Arab populations of Jerusalem were scattered throughout the city. At the end of the War of Independence, when the city was partitioned into Israeli West Jerusalem and Jordanian East Jerusalem, a major population redistribution took place. The Jews in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City and the Arabs throughout West Jerusalem had to leave for the other side. As the old Arab neighborhoods in West Jerusalem were filled in with new Jewish residents, the municipality gave the neighborhoods new Hebrew names in an attempt to erase their history. So Talbiyeh became Komemiyut, Katamon became Gonen, and Baka became Geulim. Was this attempt successful? Yes, in the sense that the current residents of the old Arab mansions of Talbiyeh are still primarily Jewish. But in a linguistic sense, no: No one has heard of Komemiyut, Gonen, or Geulim, and everyone still uses the Arabic names (or Greek, in the case of Katamon).
And now history repeats itself. If you’ve been to Jerusalem in the last couple years, you’ve seen Rechov Yafo and other major streets all torn up for the construction of the new Jerusalem Light Rail, which runs through both West and “East” (actually north) Jerusalem. Now, as the project nears completion, and the engineering challenges of constructing new transportation infrastructure in an ancient and hilly city have all been met, the city faces what may prove to be a greater challenge: naming the stations.

The committee tasked with naming the stations received a proposal from linguist Dr. Avshalom Kor, who proposed giving all of the stations Hebrew names, regardless of how the locations are actually known. Haaretz reports:

The proposal most likely to prove controversial is the station in Shoafat, a neighborhood next to French Hill. The specific location of the station is known to the locals as Tel El Ful. Kor sneers at the name and proposes calling the station Givat Binyamin (Benjamin Hill), after the tribe of King Saul. Kor dedicates about half of his proposal to explaining the name change.
“Tel el Ful is the Arab name of our capital in the days of King Saul,” writes Kor, underlining the words “Arab” and “our.” “The Hebrew name was Givat Shaul or Givat Binyamin, after the king’s tribe. The name Givat Shaul is already taken by a neighborhood in West Jerusalem, therefore the station will be known as Givat Binyamin.”
Kor says that giving the station an Arab name would encourage illegal construction by Palestinians. “When we returned to this historic hill after the Six-Day War, it was bare except for King Hussein’s then unfinished villa at the top,” Kor says. “All the houses covering it now have been built, to my knowledge, illegally.”
He adds: “If it were not for the extensive illegal construction there, the hill today would bear the prestigious name of Givat Binyamin” – and he underlines the words “not” and “prestigious.”
Kor says: “Therefore, any potential request by the residents to give the station an Arab name would mean not just eradicating the Jewish past of the first capital of the Kingdom of Israel, but also acknowledging (yet again) the illegal construction in the area.”

We have obtained a copy of Kor’s memo, and he lists three more reasons for naming this particular station Givat Binyamin:

  • Lebanon and Jordan are known to the world by their biblical names, and not by the local names Lubnan and Urdun.
  • Quoting Genesis 26:18, “Isaac dug the wells which had been dug in the days of his father Abraham, and which the Philistines had stopped up after Abraham’s death, and he called them by the names that his father had called them.” (Is Kor going for a double entendre with the reference to Philistines?)
  • “In Paris, for example, they would clearly name a station after an early French king’s capital, and not ‘Hill of Beans.’ And likewise we will name the station in honor of King Saul’s capital, and not ‘Tel al Ful’.”

Though Kor appears to be drawing an incendiary contrast between the cultured Europeans (or fictional versions of them whose views on kings are different from the actual French) and the residents of East Jerusalem, even the Europeans are not spared in his crusade for Hebrew names. He proposes naming the station on King George Street “Bikkur Cholim,” after the hospital whose name means “visiting the sick,” “an important site in the city’s history and an important mitzvah in Judaism,” rather than naming it after a British monarch.
And if you thought these stations could have both Hebrew and Arabic names, Kor’s proposal rules out that possibility. The proposal begins by saying that the Hebrew name will also appear in Arabic and Latin letters. “This way it is easier for tourists to find their way. If a tourist asks a Jerusalemite, for example, about ‘Ammunition Hill’, it is reasonable that the Jerusalemite will not know how to direct him. Therefore, in the three languages will be written, for example, ‘Givat Hatachmoshet’.”
Will Kor succeed in occluding Jerusalem’s diversity (and Israel’s multiple official languages) in favor of a Hebrew-only light rail, or will the unveiling of this proposal prompt a public backlash?

70 thoughts on “A Hill of Beans in This Crazy World

  1. Neither. Someone with some commonsense needs to step in and say, “we’ll just name the stations for the nearest street.” Really, this shouldn’t be hard.

  2. I guess I was just an idealistic urbanist when I thought we could bring peace to Yerushalayim through mass transit and cartography….sigh.

  3. For more on naming, cartography and the erasure of Palestinian presence see Meron Benvenisti’s book Sacred Landscape.
    (I guess if I am not going to post all that frequently, I can take up the position of Jewschool’s resident footnoter)

  4. it’s not clear that the municipality will take the linguist seriously. and even if it does, I can’t imagine the residents will take the stop names seriously. which doesn’t make it right, but just might make it as successful as the continued use of the official names of Komemiyut, Morasha (instead of Musrara), and Abu Tor (whose Hebrew name escapes me).

  5. Abu Tor – Givat Hananya.
    There have been street names in E. Jerusalem (and mail delivery) for only about two years. I don’t know if people use them.
    Trying to recast Jerusalem as a “Jewish City”, which it hasn’t been for at least 2500 years, is somewhere between a joke and a farce.
    (before yelling: I am not claiming Jews have no connection or claim to Jerusalem. Just that there were people of many nationalities/religions living in the city since almost forever).

  6. One reason I dislike being in Jerusalem is the sense of walking through a ghost town.
    Not in the sense that it’s empty; it’s seeing the landscape of apartments interrupted by a grand mansion, and thinking – who lived here? Where are they now?
    Those formerly Arab hoods are creepy once you start to see the shadow of what it was alongside what it almost is. It’s like a neighborhood built on a cemetery, where the old grave markers still exist here and there.

  7. You do realize that Jerusalem has had a jewish majority since a century before 1948, and that the Jewish population wasn’t “transfered”, it was ethnically cleansed by the Jordanians and Arab gangs. Not a single synogogue survived just 20 years of Arab rule. Further, this fascination with Arab nationalism is curious. The Arabs are, after all, an invading, non-native, occupying force, as is their bedouin language and culture. Returning Jewish sovereignty to the city, and to the country must include reversing centuries of foreign occupation, and its linguistic vestiges.

  8. Avidgor-
    That presumes a continuity between the ancient Jewish community of Jerusalem, the medieval Jewish community of Jerusalem, the modern Jewish community of Jerusalem and the contemporary Jewish community of Jerusalem. It’s hard enough to draw actual and factual historical continuity between any of those elements, let alone all of them.

  9. Avigdor writes:
    the Jewish population wasn’t “transfered”, it was ethnically cleansed by the Jordanians and Arab gangs
    What’s the distinction you’re making here? If by “ethnically cleansed” you mean “killed”, then no, they weren’t all killed, many of them moved to Katamon and elsewhere in West Jerusalem. And if by “ethnically cleansed” you mean “transferred”, then …?
    Not a single synogogue survived just 20 years of Arab rule.
    And how many mosques have you seen in West Jerusalem?
    Further, this fascination with Arab nationalism is curious.
    Who mentioned Arab nationalism?
    The Arabs are, after all, an invading, non-native, occupying force,
    The 7th-century Islamic Caliphate was an occupying force. But I don’t see how that claim can be made about the current Arab population of Jerusalem when everyone would agree that Israel controls East and West Jerusalem.
    as is their bedouin language and culture.
    Surely you realize that Bedouins are a subset of Arabs and that there are few to no Bedouins in Jerusalem.

  10. Justin – plenty in Avigdor’s post with which to take issue; not sure why you choose to focus on the continuity of the Jewish community, which is pretty uncontroversial. (Even if you buy into the recent pseudoscience regarding the continuity *globally* of the Jewish people advanced by dudes like Shlomo Sand, we’re talking here about an unbroken history of Jewish residence in Jerusalem; no one seriously disputes this).

  11. unbroken chronology does not equal cultural or religious continuity. this is a fallacy. There is chronological continuity between me, today, and the ancient Israelites, but that does not make for a continuousness of culture or language or belief. history has rules of interpretation, it’s more than dates and places.

  12. You’re muddling.
    You originally mentioned the difficulty in drawing “actual and factual historical continuity.” I replied that the historical continuity of the Jewish community in Jerusalem is not really in dispute.
    You’ve now rebutted with an entirely new set of terms: “cultural or religious continuity.”
    So…what are you talking about exactly?

  13. that history is more than the fact that people who identify as Jews have held residence there. The communities that have represented the Jewish people in Jerusalem have been drastically different from one another, have different reasons for residing there and have had different experiences depending on their time there. To say that the kingdom of David lead directly to Montefiorre’s windmill, well, that’s simply a historical fallacy. We can’t say that any Israelite or Judahite or their immediate descendants even have that historical continuity with the Persian Babylonian returnees. Then when you factor in European immigration and all that jazz, well, the fact that there is a consistent Jewish presence in Jerusalem (not disputed) is different than there being historical continuity between each generation. More clear?

  14. BZ,
    What’s the distinction you’re making here?
    You have sanitized the history, purposefully so. An uninformed reader could be excused for thinking, after reading your words, that there was a kumbaya moment and the Jews were happily paraded out of the city with hot maklube stuffed in their knapsacks.
    If by “ethnically cleansed” you mean “killed”, then no, they weren’t all killed,
    When has “ethnically cleansed” meant “killed”? I’ve never heard these terms being equated. “Genocide” is the term used in place of mass “killing”.
    And if by “ethnically cleansed” you mean “transferred”, then …?
    Again, “transferred” is a sanitized term you chose to employ to whitewash a terrible catastrophe. If by “transferred” you refer to “forced eviction under threat of death, with substantial murder and rape of Jews” then say so. Otherwise you’re being purposefully misleading.
    And how many mosques have you seen in West Jerusalem?
    How many mosques were there in West Jerusalem prior to 1948? How many mosques are being recorded as destroyed? You’re muddying the waters. We know every church that was there is still standing. More importantly, Al Aksa still stands. Had a Jewish Temple stood there, we both know it would have been leveled, as was every synagogue was under Jordanian and Palestinian rule.
    Who mentioned Arab nationalism?
    Jew Guavara. Not in so many words, of course. I doubt he would protest to such a summation of his position, but hey… surprise me.
    The 7th-century Islamic Caliphate was an occupying force.
    The Caliphate was a political entity. As power in Arab societies has shifted to various political entities through the centuries, the occupation of the land by the Arab population has not. Didn’t you know that encouraging the settlement an occupied territory is illegal under international law, BZ? 😉
    But I don’t see how that claim can be made about the current Arab population of Jerusalem when everyone would agree that Israel controls East and West Jerusalem.
    Again, occupation is not restricted to the political realm.
    Surely you realize that Bedouins are a subset of Arabs and that there are few to no Bedouins in Jerusalem.
    That’s a rather restricted perspective. The Bedouin are the prototypical Arabs; the original inhabitants of the Arabian peninsula. They have a direct bloodline to Mohammed, unlike the vast majority of Palestinians, and it is the Bedouin tribes which surged across Arabia, Levant, Mesopotamia and Maghreb, occupying and imposing their language, culture and religion. Prior to Arab (coming from Arabia, i.e. Bedouin) conquest, everyone from Persia to Egypt and beyond spoke Aramaic as a lingua franca. Of course, today “Arab” identity is an overlap of culture, language, religion and politics, imprinted further by European ideas of national statehood.
    Today’s Jewish inhabitants of the land (or the Land), have no less a right to rename the streets and cities and mountains than did the Arab invaders 1300 years ago, than did the Romans 2000 years ago. And you, my friend, are a participant in this process of reclaiming Jewish place names in a way that is consistent with Jewish identity and sovereignty. After all, you call it Jerusalem, right? Not al Quds?

  15. One of the fascinating aspects of Jerusalem’s history is that communities which have resided there did not do so for very long, in the grand scheme of history; while there is always a Jewish presence, each manifestation of the Jewish community is not necessarily representative of “historical continuity.” Jerusalem, as an ideal or theological concept, has changed throughout history. In different places and times it has represented different things, therefore different Jews returned and/or resided there for different reasons. Because of disease primarily, but also strife and conflict, communities failed to thrive and expand for the most part. Until mass immigration, the Jewish community was not steady in number, and rarely on the rise. Because of these factors, there was not a consistent Jewish culture of any uniformity throughout the communities which have resided in Jerusalem throughout history, but as we can still see in contemporary Jerusalem, a splattering of cultures. Starting with the monarchy as the traditional understanding of the beginning of a Jewish presence in Jerusalem, it is not historically accurate or intellectually honest to say that each consecutive Jewish community in Jerusalem follows a direct continuous historical thread. Medieval rabbis who traveled from the Andalusian peninsula to Palestine and the Hasidim of the 19th century Pale were in Jerusalem in different communities for different reasons, and there is no continuity between those two communities aside from a shared faith-based foundation. Ethnically, culturally, linguistically, et al, they are on separate arcs of history–related, for sure, but different. To connect contemporary Israeli Jerusalem to any previous Jerusalem is to make the same historical error.
    There have always been Jewish residents of Jerusalem. There has always been Jewish people there, I am not trying to say otherwise. I am proposing (and not myself alone, but real historians also) that there is not a historical continuity between the various communities that make up those Jewish residents throughout time. Some of them, perhaps, but I cannot think, off the top of my head right now, of any particular series of communities that do link together in such a way.
    If anyone knows otherwise I’m happy to be proven wrong. This is simply my read on the history as I’ve learned the facts, opinions, dates, names and places based on how I was taught to utilize historical theory.
    Part of nation building involves history writing. Zionist education has provided us all with a neat, consistent and clear timeline from Abraham to you and me. If history was so neat and clean, historians would have nothing to do. I just don’t see the connection *in history* between, for example, between the settlement of Spanish Jews in Jerusalem in the 13th century and that of early Hasidim, not to mention the secular migrations in the last two centuries.

  16. I just don’t see the connection *in history* between, for example, between the settlement of Spanish Jews in Jerusalem in the 13th century and that of early Hasidim, not to mention the secular migrations in the last two centuries.
    Under the definition of continuity you seem to be using, no people anywhere can claim continuity with the past, as every culture and people is dynamic, constantly changing.
    I do see continuity “between the settlement of Spanish Jews in Jerusalem in the 13th century and that of early Hasidim”, and the secular waves of aliyah, as I see a fundamental, spiritual unity among Jews that stands independent of blood, race, custom or minhag.

  17. Avigdor writes:
    You have sanitized the history, purposefully so. An uninformed reader could be excused for thinking, after reading your words, that there was a kumbaya moment and the Jews were happily paraded out of the city with hot maklube stuffed in their knapsacks.
    What the fuck ever. I thought I was going out of my way to be evenhanded by even mentioning those Jews and their plight, even though they’re of no relevance to the main story (since the Jewish Quarter is once again the Jewish Quarter, and the light rail doesn’t go to the Old City).
    Again, “transferred” is a sanitized term you chose to employ to whitewash a terrible catastrophe. If by “transferred” you refer to “forced eviction under threat of death, with substantial murder and rape of Jews” then say so. Otherwise you’re being purposefully misleading.
    Dude, “transferred” was your term, not mine. And how can any term be more sanitized than “cleansed”?

  18. I thought I was going out of my way to be evenhanded by even mentioning those Jews and their plight, even though they’re of no relevance to the main story
    Are you actually asking me to thank you for being so generous and “evenhanded” to mention “those Jews and their plight”? I’ll go out of my way to be evenhanded and assume that you’re not.
    The main story here, as I read it, is not that a bunch of light rail terminals in an Israeli city will be given Hebrew names, shocking as that may be.
    Your concern appears to be that Arab “history” in the city – whatever that means, because using Justin’s methodology no people have continuity with the past – is being purged with language. I’m simply saying that the Jews have every right to do so, as the Arabs did before them. There’s nothing untoward about this process.
    You seem to think this situation warrants outrage. Why? Why is preserving or inventing Arab place names important in Jerusalem?

  19. Avidgor-
    You’re simply wrong. For example, there is complete continuity between the Saxon invasion of the British Isles, the Democratic Revolution of 1666 and contemporary English social Democracy. Why? Because this is a constant chain of culture, language and ethnicity. The same can be said of Germanic culture post-Charlemagne, or even of French culture post-Gaul. You are confusing co-religionists with co-culturalists. Just because you say there’s a connection based on your contemporary notion of Jewish spirituality and theology doesn’t give it *historical* continuity. This is a real term, read E.H. Carr and and Richard J. Evans for some more on historical theory and how to read history. Unfortunately, Jewish/Zionist education has tainted our understanding of history by packaging it into a neat myth, but again, history just doesn’t work like that.
    CoA–I don’t know if you’re being sarcastic or not… historiography can either mean method of historical analysis or it could be used to denote “history-like while not so much historical,” so, yeah, not sure which this one is…

  20. the war over naming train stations is a metaphor for the holy war that has always been fought in yrshalayim/alquds… so whats new?
    jews can call it “yrshalayim”, arabs can call it “alquds”, whatever. when there is peace nobody will care what it is called, just what they call it themselves.
    justin, i think i speak for everyone when i say, “huh?!”

  21. Lebanon and Jordan are known to the world by their biblical names, and not by the local names Lubnan and Urdun.
    Wait, what?
    Lubnaan and ’Urdun ARE ‘Lebanon’ and ‘Jordan’, just the Arabic forms instead of the Greek»Latin»English ones.

  22. Oren, what part is confusing? I think part of the problem is that those of us who were educated in American high schools and universities have been taught historical information but not historical theory. Knowing the dates and places is one thing, but understanding what to do with all of them is another. The fact that Jewish people have been present in Jerusalem is a historic reality but that does not necessarily equate to historic continuity. Each generation of Jewish people in Jerusalem were not necessarily connected to the previous generation by ethnic, cultural, linguistic or geographical lines. The fact that they share religion does not make it historical continuity. What that tells us is not that there is Jewish historical continuity in Jerusalem, but that Jerusalem is an important aspect of the Jewish faith that has included some aspect of pilgrimage for some time now. So a continuity of ideal, perhaps, but even that does not hold up under the microscope since the catalyst for the relationship with Jerusalem as an ideal has changed over time and space. When applying accepted methodologies of historical theory to our understanding of the history of Jerusalem it becomes more clear, at least to some, that the notion that there is a constant chain of Jewish history in Jerusalem with a continuous culture that is connected throughout the ages and across ethnic, cultural and linguistic lines, well, that’s more mythic history than factual history–still valid for human memory, for sure, but not so much what we call history in the 21st century.

  23. Avigdor writes:
    Are you actually asking me to thank you for being so generous and “evenhanded” to mention “those Jews and their plight”?
    Not at all. But this point was tangential to the main post, and so I have nothing to apologize for for not going into the gory details. If I had written “forced eviction under threat of death, with substantial murder and rape of Jews” as you suggest, then you or someone would have found a way to say that this was still whitewashing the real story, so I’m not going to take the bait. If anything, you’re the one whitewashing history by not mentioning the atrocities of the Holocaust in this whole comment thread. Game over.

  24. Abraham was an Iraqi.
    Abraham was an illegal immigrant, without a passport or visa.
    All early Jews are descended from Iraqis and later, the Egyptians (slave owners always sleep with the hot slaves).
    This is all such a frigging joke – life is now – not 2,000 years ago.
    There is a Jewish woman sleeping with a Muslim man right now. There is a Muslim man sleeping with a Christian woman right now. There is a Christian man sleeping with a Buddhist woman right now. There is a Buddhist man sleeping with a Jewish man right now.
    Happy New Year!

  25. justin, i think i speak for everyone when i say, “huh?!”
    —Oren · December 30th, 2009 at 10:32 am
    Oren, I think I speak for myself when I say, “Don’t put your lack of reading comprehension or historical theory on me, please.”

  26. Each generation of Jewish people in Jerusalem were not necessarily connected to the previous generation by ethnic, cultural, linguistic or geographical lines. The fact that they share religion does not make it historical continuity.
    Doesn’t it? I’m asking, as you seem to be educated in “historical theory”. Why is faith unlike culture, language or geography? Why is faith, from the perspective of modern historical theory not a foundation for historical continuity?
    Does culture, language and geography define or frame Jewish continuity? Perhaps for other peoples it does, but for Jews, I would say no. Our people are inseparable from the faith that has carried and sustained us. That’s not Zionist myth, but a matter of historical record. What frames Jewish continuity is our faith, as it is the only essential aspect of our Jewish identity. Faith is precisely why Hassidim from Belorussia study and relate to Jewish philosophers and codifiers fleeing the Spanish inquisitions centuries earlier, or to Talmudic giants of Bavli. Our faith is our continuity – our culture, laws and customs. The Baal Shem Tov may have looked quite different from Rambam, but were they to sit down at one table, after some discussion they would recognize each other as Jews.
    But do tell, what does modern historical theory have to say on the subject.

  27. It’s the same reason that the Sephardi and Ashkenazi Rishonim reacted differently to the gemara and the state of halakhic practice in the 12-15th centuries. Their culture and perspectives were different based on their experiences. Catholics and Baptists ultimately share a faith, but they are not the same thing. I agree with you on a spiritual level. The Rambam and the Baal Shem Tov would ultimately recognize each other as Jews (and what a funny conversation that would be) but that puts them within the same faith tradition.
    The reason that the English culture of England has historic continuity is because the English, immigration and such aside, have been English since the Anglos and Saxons fought the Normans. (I recognize this is a gross over simplification of the history of the British Isles). Jewish culture is Jerusalem is consistently, nearly generation after generation, broken off. That’s not to say that there has ever been a time without a Jewish community, history and archaeology prove that there has always been at least a small Jewish community. But it’s just not appropriate to link communities over time and space who migrated to a city away from their home for different reasons at different times and did different things there. Even the face of the religion was different to different people. The Rambam would not recognize the Baal Shem Tov’s form of worship or kashrus, nor would they likely have understood each other’s spoken Hebrew. Yes, they both subscribed to a faith system based on ritual commandments, but how they enacted those commandments was different. The descendants of socialist anarchists all the more so are a separate community. I agree with you, like I said, Jewish connection transcends geography and language etc, but history is a science and terms like historical continuity imply something, so just like one wouldn’t use halakhah and it’s language to make a point without actually utilizing the system as its designed to be used, history, too, has rules.

  28. How many mosques were there in West Jerusalem prior to 1948? How many mosques are being recorded as destroyed?
    AVIGDOR. I cannot believe you even suggested that.
    Do you want the specific numbers in just West Jerusalem, or would you like the number of mosques in the 500-some villages Israel destroyed after 1948? Every one of those 500 villages likely had a mosque. Whether or not those residents fled or were expelled, they had houses, shops, mosques and cemetaries which exist no more. They are buried under parking lots, airports, and Museums of Tolerance.
    What about the plaza upon which the Kotel is built? It was a Palestinian neighborhood which was razed by bulldozers within days of the end of the war, it’s residents “transferred” to the refugee camp in East Jerusalem now called Shuafat. You can read the research on this particular event in Gershom Gorenberg’s book The Accidental Empire in which he interviews the commander in charge of the razing.
    Lastly, are we talking just about mosques or holy places in general? Because the U.S. State Department reported that Israel has protected no Muslim or Christian holy sites:

    The report says that the 1967 law on the protection of holy places refers to all religious groups in the country, including in Jerusalem, but “the government implements regulations only for Jewish sites. Non-Jewish holy sites do not enjoy legal protection under it because the government does not recognize them as official holy sites.”

    Your blatantly ignorant statement that the Arabs cannot be trusted to safeguard Jewish holy sites, but implying that Jews can, is a slap in the face to history. It’s worse: it’s the stream of Zionist myth that is fundamentally racist. It is racist both if casusally through ignorance or explicitly through belief that Jews are civilized and Arabs are not.
    The common thread linking many of the protests in the comments here is that Jews are co-inhabiting a land with mixed history. Indeed 1 of 5 Israelis is a Palestinian, and 1 of 3 Jerusalem residents is a Palestinian. The country and city are shared, and to pave over its full history is (in my view) cowardly, dishonest, and shameful. We cannot pretend to be something we are not: innocent, better, unbloodied.
    In the words of the JNF director (an unsual source for me to cite) when the agency decided to put up signs in Israeli national parks commemorating the sites of destroyed Palestinian villages, “I think that today there is more openness to the subject and it is starting to be less threatening. The sky will not fall if we tell people that we kicked out Arabs and destroyed villages.”

  29. Are we now claiming that a diaspora isn’t a real culture?
    You can’t say that Jews throughout history look and act with less consistency than Englishfolk throughout history and then say this overturns the foundations of Zionism.
    The folks who came up with Zionism were pretty clear about the fact that Jews have been scattered and took on different characteristics in different lands and times. They talked about it a ton.
    Just because the groups of Jews in Jerusalem throughout history rarely yielded each other directly doesn’t mean that they weren’t all expressions of the same desire to be there on the part of a global diaspora with very definite common cultural traits and roots.
    Religion is a giant part of culture. The fact that Jewish commonalities were mostly religious isn’t some kind of brilliant stroke against the existence of a Jewish national group.

  30. cW, you’re right. and I’m not trying to argue that. What I’m saying is that diaspora culture, the ideal of Jerusalem and Jewish expression do not create a historic continuity. I’m not saying it overturns the foundations of Zionism. I’m saying that the statement that Jerusalem is representative of Jewish historical continuity is actually not true by the standards of historical analysis and what constitutes continuity. Everything you say is correct, but it doesn’t change what historic continuity means.

  31. Justin, here is what I am trying to understand. We were talking about naming train stations and you went off about the nuances of historiography. Can you please tie it all together for me?
    ML, please forgive me. If you can explain it then I’m all ears.

  32. b/c avidgor played the card that since Jews have always lived in Jerusalem we have the right to erase Arab history. By his logic, if that historic continuity is false than so is the basis for such a right.

  33. Avigdor wrote: The Arabs are, after all, an invading, non-native, occupying force, as is their bedouin language and culture. Returning Jewish sovereignty to the city, and to the country must include reversing centuries of foreign occupation, and its linguistic vestiges.
    You must not be up to your reading. Languages change, but populations predominately don’t. The Jews never left Palestine, they just converted, mostly after the reconquest of Palestine by Saladin. And how do you propose reversing those centuries of foreign occupation? By convincing Arabic speakers to use terms that Hebrew speakers never heard of? Right.

  34. The main story here, as I read it, is not that a bunch of light rail terminals in an Israeli city will be given Hebrew names
    Jerusalem is not London. It is Brussels. It’s a binational (“mixed”) city (at least!), and the one-third of the population belonging to the minority deserves to be recognized. If they build all the buildings and clean all the floors and wash all the dishes in the city, they have a right to their own language being represented in the signs and landmarks of their hometown.

  35. Also, the Israeli (“Jews”) here are not Angles or Saxons battling (and intermingling) with Britons. They’re Normans, keeping apart and aloof from the native population, trying to get it to wash their dishes and floors, and getting mad when they try and rebel.

  36. “You are confusing co-religionists with co-culturalists.”
    This is the crux of the argument/disagreement here, Justin. It is NOT about E.H. Carr and and Richard J. Evans and their particular theory of historiography. (I can fully appreciate a theory that seeks to divorce mere presence-of-people-of-the-same-religion with “historical continuity” of a community.)
    But this distinction is only relevant if you view Jews as mere “co-religionists” and not members of a nation, people, or “culture.” If you take the latter view, then the difference between your “Saxon co-culturalists” and “Jewish co-religionists” is illusory.
    What you seem to ignore is that the “constant chain of culture, language and ethnicity” that you recognize as existing between successive generations of the “English” or the “Germanic” people actually also exists between successive generations of Jews — at least many of us feel that it does.
    And if you accept that premise (as many of us do), then this idea of yours that the-Jewish-communities-in-Jerusalem-over-the-years-have-had-no-more-in-commmon-than-that-they-were-Jewish is moot. Being Jewish *is* the historical continuity.
    (And BTW your tidy histories/descriptions of the “English” and “Germanic” groups in this comment section are every bit simplistic and flawed as the most short-sighted characterization of Jews that I’ve read here.)
    What is apparent in your reasoning, when you clear away the red herring of these new theories of historiography that you propose, is that you view Jews as somehow *less* of a nation or people than Germans or English. Admit that, and I think we can agree to disagree.

  37. BTW speaking of Jerusalem and names, Palestinian old-timers,
    particularly religious Muslims, had a name other than al-Quds for Jerusalem : “Bayt ul-Maqdis.
    This is actually an Arabic version of “Beyt HaMikdash.” Both mean “House of Holiness” and both refer to the Temple, the remains of which lie below today’s Har Habayit, refered to in Arabic as Haram al-Sharif.
    This Arabic name for Jerusalem has slowly disappeared from Palestinian parlance, supplanted over the last century by “al-Quds.” Why has this Arabic name for Jerusalem disappeared? I’m no Muslim religious scholar, but I suspect that it is disfavored because it makes explicit reference to the Jewish temple, the existence of which many Palestinians would now prefer to deny or at least to downplay.
    Just saying.

  38. you view Jews as somehow *less* of a nation or people than Germans or English
    …and the great distinction in being a nation is? And the claim of dual allegiance leveled at the Jews all throughout emancipation to this very day is…true?

  39. rootlesscosmo — I admit it. I think Jews are adherants to a religion and members of an ethnicity but not a nation. I don’t think that because my grandfather lived in Poland in the 1920s gives me any right to be there over the people who live there now. The whole national rights to a homeland is a self-contradictory fantasy for any self-perceived member of self-perceived nation.
    But I think the general theory here is that even if the (ahem) nation of Jews have historical continuity in Jerusalem (especially only a few hundred Jews for two millenia), it’s a poor rationalle for hostility to other cultures. Far better, says I, to name a train station Bayt ul-Maqdis and acknowledge that many different Arabic-speaking peoples lived there before all the city’s present occupants, Jew or Arab or other.

  40. rc-
    we agree, Jews are not a nation like Germans are a nation. That is a fabrication of Russian revolutionaries who applied radical theory of nation building to their Zionist ideal. Historical continuity and nationhood do not exist because some people feel they see it. It’s a matter of fact and myth. mythic history is valid for memory, but it does not relay the factual history. You can continue to buy the story, but you should know it’s not based in factual history, that’s all i’m saying.

  41. Amit: What exactly is your question here re: “great distinction”? Can you clarify? The argument I was presenting was that of Jews-as-nation. There’s no inherent value in being a nation or not being a nation. But if nations are accorded certain rights, and non-national groups are denied said rights, and we happen to be discussing the accordance of said rights to Jews in Israel, then the question of whether Jews are a nation is essential. (Not sure where you are going with the “dual allegiance” thing at all. Members of countless recognized nations live outside the borders of their respective nation-states.)
    Justin: I’m glad we’ve had the chance to unpack some of your initial opposition to the idea of a “continuous Jewish presence” in Jerusalem. We’ve discovered that it stems from your denial of Jewish nationhood. According to you Jews have no essential common identity beyond religious practice. And so what most would view as a continuous, uninterrupted Jewish presence in Jerusalem, you view as a series of successive communities that merely happened to all be Jewish.
    But what to make of your “fact vs. myth” formulation insofar as nations are concerned? Care to elaborate? There is no one formula for a nation, as surely you will agree. (Your tidy timelines for the history of the “English” and “Germanic” peoples are a prime example of national myth — and by that I do not mean to suggest that there was no Norman conquest, etc.; I mean simply to remind you that the very idea that a common history creates a “nation” is subjective). (I should add in the interest of inclusiveness that some would even take issue with the very idea of “historical fact” — but not me).
    Jewish vs. Palestinian nationhood is a great example of how dangerous it is to start talking about a “factual” basis for nationhood. Arguments can be made for each of Jews and Palestinians being a nation. But surely the criteria that each meets are different.

  42. The “German nation” didn’t exist until Otto Von Bismarck invented it in the late 19th century in order to conquer/incorporate vast swaths of Germanic-language-speaking territory (then under the rule of a smattering of local princes). Not coincidentally, this was the same period that the “Jewish nation” was invented by Herzl, along with the “Slavic nation”, the “Italian nation”… like said above, nationalism has no organic basis, and too often ends up being a self-serving ideology.
    Any conception of Jewish peoplehood should steer clear of nationalism. Call it “Neshama Yehudit” or “Goy Qadosh” or whatever… to define it along the same lines as any other nationalism (histriographically, genetically, linguistically) puts us in the very same traps that befall other nationalisms.

  43. B.BarNavi — You’re quite right that these national movements came about at the same time. And yet I rarely hear the national identity of Slavs, Italians or Germans called into question as that of the Jews constantly is. Indeed, even in this thread we have posters (e.g. Justin) loudly proclaiming the essential national character of the English or German peoples while denying that of the Jews.
    Some real hardcore German and English nationalists in here apparently; it’s bizarre.

  44. i wasn’t talking about that, i was talking about the historical continuity of german and english history. you’ll find me in many othre posts in the past and future loudly proclaiming my dismissal of nationalism

  45. No doubt “proclaiming” loudest when it concerns Jewish nationalism. Other forms of nationalism? Proclaiming a little quieter.
    Dude we’ve already heard your airtight theory of nationhood (a “constant chain of culture, language and ethnicity”), how “Jews are not a nation like Germans are a nation,” etc.
    I have no doubt you are piously opposed to all forms of national chauvinism, etc. You nonetheless hold some people up as a nation and not others (including Jews).
    No word yet on where the Palestinians fall on your nation meter, nor which of your “factual” elements of nationhood they happen to meet.
    I guess that’s for another fun discussion at a later date…

  46. rc-
    there’s no need to drift into rudeness. When I say the phrase “Jews are not a nation like Germans are a nation” I mean it from a place of pride. I don’t think it has been a good experiment for us to join in the nation game. And no, I will say loudly of any nation, I think nations are stupid, serve nothing more than to make a minute population wealthy and centralize control and power in their hands to exploit and abuse others around them for their own gain. They are fabrications of monarchs and oligarchs once those systems became unpopular, so they theorized all these new aspects of unity and togetherness that is ultimately false and based on myth. so yes, Jews, like every other nation, have a history based on myth. When I was referring to Brits and Germans (and you’ll find neither of those terms in antiquity, I’m well aware, and anyone who knows me knows I LOVE to rag on the English for any reason) I was using them as an example of what historians mean when they utilize the term historical continuity. I’m not telling you my airtight anything, I’m telling you what the term historical continuity means as I was taught it in the seminars and courses I took in university when I was studying history and historical theory. The Palestinians have an identically ridiculous and nonsensical national myth that has its historical facts that both support and discredit their narrative, just like Israelis do (and any other nation, because they’re all made up).
    but you know, no doubt, my ultimate goal is to dismiss the Jewish nation, because you know, it’s easier to write someone off as a “Jew-hater” than actually engage in adult conversation

  47. Oren, yes I do. My biblical, classical and rabbinic Hebrew are completely fluent. My modern Hebrew, less so. Why do you ask?

  48. thank you, I was just curious. I wonder how many jewish people there would be speaking hebrew, let alone yiddish, today without our experiment in the nation game. being that I have mixed european and north african heritage, how likely is it that I would even exist without our experiment? maybe you don’t appreciate its value as much as I do. in my opinion, it is the language that defines a nation. I know this is not a precise definition but it works for me. and I don’t think that there is a better way than a state to preserve and revive a language.

  49. If it’s language that defines the nation, then your N. African ancestors are Arabs and your European ancestors were like Poles, Germans or Russians, except for the few Yids who only spoke Yiddish. This is exactly the point. Spoken Hebrew has only existed for less than a couple hundred years. Hebrew as a Jewish language has not been spoken, probably ever. If you look into Scripture, the language of the Jews was not Ivrit, Hebrew, but Yehudit, Judaean. So don’t give me this nonsense that our language connects us. Yes, our WRITTEN language connects us, but rabbis in the shtetlach spoke yiddish, rabbis in Spain spoke Arabic and rabbis in Franco-Germany spoke French. So, what gives? The fact that Zionist education encouraged me to learn modern Hebrew sheds nothing on the historical continuity that you and others claim. This is myth, and like I said before, myth is great for memory–it’s clearly given you meaning. But the fact that I speak Hebrew, I mean, shit, there’s that goyishe cop who bought an Israeli bomb sniffing dog, and he knows Hebrew, so is he Jewish? Is the dog Jewish because the dog knows Hebrew commands? Do you see where I’m going with this?
    We were all taught that we’d be dead without Israel, but how do we know that’s true? Your N. African ancestors would have likely never been expelled from their homes if Israel wasn’t established, so, explain? And your European ancestors could and would have found safe-haven in America, Canada or England, as many others did. So don’t give me that. Since we’ve joined in the nation game, we have become a pariah, and it’s not because the world hates Jews, it’s because Israel does vile things. And we excuse the vile things, out of nationlism. We excused the mass radiation of Mizrahi emigres in the 50s, and we excuse the inherent racism built into the system, we excuse the sex trade and the drug trafficking, we excuse the int’l arms deals and the illegal weaponry, we excuse the brutal occuptaion that is eating away at the soul of the entire country, and why? because of IM technology and a false historical continuity? BS. If it’s language that connects nations, than like I said, your N. African ancestors were Arabs. And native English speaking Jews are nothing more than Americans, Anglos or where ever they hail from. I know Hebrew so I can read Talmud and Rishonim on the Talmud. But they spoke Arabic and German and Yiddish. In fact, some of their works weren’t ever written in Hebrew at all but were translated some time later. So again, language doesn’t cut it. Unless you take the Zionist myth at face value, in which case it cuts it for you.

  50. and what’s more, speaking of Yiddish speakers, I guarantee there’s SWATHS more Yiddish speakers today if we didn’t inherit the nourishkeit that Yiddish is weak and Hebrew is superior. The creation of the State of Israel destroyed European Jewish culture and language, so how did the nation game help to save Yiddish? I’m pretty sure Diaspora yidden have saved Yiddish.

  51. there’s a longer comment which makes that last comment make more sense which is apparently awaiting moderation

  52. Justin – nowhere did I call you a “Jew-hater” and my apologies if you deemed my last post rude. I think our exchange thus far has been every bit the “adult conversation” you mention.

  53. “The creation of the State of Israel destroyed European Jewish culture and language”
    uhhhh…am I the only one with an alternative explanation in mind?

  54. RC-
    I see where you’re going with it, but truthfully, the remnant of Yiddish speakers following the destruction of European Jewry could have easily repropegated their literature and culture had Israelis not deemed it weak, and convinced the rest of the Jewish world it was worth forgetting, when now when I read Torah publicly in an Ashkenazi accent people cringe. Jews cringe. Nazis didn’t make Jews cringe at their own culture. Zionists did.

  55. Got it. So the Nazis destroyed Yiddish culture, but it’s ultimately the Zionists fault for not “repropegating” it — or it’s at least their fault for presenting Hebrew as a more attractive alternative.

  56. and PS for much of the Jewish world, an Ashkenazi accent has nothing to do with “their culture.” That’s your Eurocentric worldview talking.

  57. more attractive is an understatement. it was, and continues to be, a systematic educational imperative to undermine Yiddish culture. The reaction to the Shoah was one in which people feared European Jewish culture because they saw it as responsible for the demise of European Jewry. It is weak and had us led like lambs to the slaughter, sound familiar? I know I’ve heard the trope my whole life. I have Israeli friends who laugh at people who outwardly show European Jewish culture and language. I have been scoffed at by an Israeli rabbi who I actually have an intimate relationship with, because I’ve read Ashkenazis in their presence. This is a deeply rooted aspect of Israeli culture. Just look at Yad v’Shem and the sculptures outside of the Warsaw ghetto uprising with the Greek Adonis Zionist ubermen and that of the religious folks being led to their death with empty eyes and talleisim over head. I don’t even think this aspect of Israeli culture is secret or subtle. It’s pretty in your face. I mean, “Dosim,” the Ashkenazi variation of דתיים is an incredibly derogatory term in Israel.
    You’re twisting my words to make it sound like I’m sympathizing with our murderers. and that’s ridiculous. what I’m saying is that our reaction to the experience was unhealthy and the educational imperatives my (our?) generation inherited is continuing that same unhealthy reaction. and I think we’ve made it worse and now it has global ramifications because the result of the experience was the need to feel protected by national sovereignty, and that national sovereignety has led us collectively to use that sovereignty to garner power to prevent the sovereignty of another people, not to mention the free-trade style areas of Palestinian workers in Israeli factories in the WB, the fact that Israel is responsible for the production and sale of more genetically engineered products per capita than any other nation, which is having a detrimental effect worldwide on crop reproduction and the bee population and therefore a myriad of effects from climate change to famine. But we ignore it because we have a narrative that tells us that for whatever reason, we’re now safer and the power we have is a good thing, even though we use it for horrible things (not only horrible things, but horrible things amongst the good things). So, if you like the vision of a Jewish state that is like any other state, and therefore is the 4th largest arms dealer and is representative of a militaristic worldview that deems it appropriate to collectively terrorize a population and excuse it every step of the way, and even cover it up in some cases, that is one of the worlds worst examples of the abusive sex trade, systematically oppresses minority and immigrant populations, if you really want to be like every other nation, zei gezunt. but count me out.

  58. It is not a secret that the Zionist leaders, writers and thinkers belittled (and belittle) and deemed weak (and deem weak) Yiddish culture. “They let themselves get killed,” goes the narrative. “They never fought back. Real Jews wouldn’t do that. Zionist wouldn’t do that.” The conflation of European Jewry with the Yiddish-speaking Israeli hareidi here overlap — weak, anti-military, backwards. This is a huge part of Israeli discourse on the Holocaust and Europe.
    rootless — who are you kidding that this isn’t Israeli culture?

  59. No. We were talking about “Jews” and their cringing at your accent. You chalked that up to Zionist-instilled animosty towards ones “own culture.” I simply wanted to remind you that Hebrew spoken in an Ashkenazi accent would have been alien to many hundreds of thousands of Jews long before the Zionists came along with their plan to denigrate Yiddish culture.

  60. rc-
    I was referring, and should have specified, to saying berakhos in an Ashkenazi accent, or leyning Torah, not having a conversation in modern Hebrew with an Ashkenazi accent–although I’m sure I’d derive some sort of sick pleasure at irritating Israelis by doing it 😉

  61. KFJ and Justin: Of course the negation of the galut was/is a huge part of Israeli culture. You’d be a fool to deny that. I was merely responding to Justin’s charge that “The creation of the State of Israel destroyed European Jewish culture and language.” You willing to cosine this ridiculous statement, KFJ? The negation of galut culture was a characteristic of the Zionist movement from its start, which was long before the shoah.
    Justin: Obviously I’m not trying to suggest that you sympathize with the Nazis. Yet you nonetheless blame the Zionists for not endeavoring to propagate Yiddish culture post-war? Zionists were supposed to drop their nation-building and Hebrew language revival to resurrect a language and culture to which they were opposed from the beginning? Why exactly?
    Why should the post-shoah Jewish world have focused on “repropegating” Yiddish at all? Just as you apparently prioritize Yiddish, the Zionist movement prioritized Hebrew. Not just Hebrew language but Hebrew labor, art and culture. That was their mission and it succeeded. Did this result in a decline in Yiddish speaking? Sure. But you’d be hard-pressed to convince me its effect was anywhere near that of actually *killing* half the world’s Yiddish speakers. (Given the number of spoken languages that have disappeared since WWII – even in the absence of a genocide or of countervailing cultural forces specifically aimed at promoting a competing language — I’d say Yiddish has actually survived remarkably well.)
    Honestly I think this conversation has run its course. Justin — Your last post is very revealing: you’re against Jewish power, which sort of puts all your previous remarks into context. You clearly would rather that Jews remain powerless in exile than have to grapple with the very real responsibilities of statehood. That’s the antithesis of the Zionist ideal, so clearly there’s not a lot of common ground to be found here.
    And while there’s no reason a principled anti-Zionist stance can’t be a basis for discussion, it seems your feelings go beyond that. What started as your modest suggestion that successive Jewish communities in Jerusalem does not equal “historical continuity” has morphed into a full-fledged manifesto against Israel. You’ve blamed the Zionists for everything from people snickering at your Hebrew accent to the decline in the world’s bee population!
    Obviously I respect your right to your opinion but I have trouble taking your pronouncements on these subjects seriously now that you’ve revealed your very *personal* negative feelings toward the Zionist movement and Israel.

  62. I have announced my negative feelings towards nationalism. What I am saying, and this is consistent in all of my comments, is that the Zionist narrative of Jewish history is a myth, and that myth has caused misunderstandings and misinterpretations in the lay people of the Jewish communities who do not understand the rules and concepts of historical theory. I am not blaming Zionists for the bee population. I’m saying that ISrael’s actions have global ramifications. it’s not so simple any more as Jews want to have a nation. The policies of the Jewish state do not embody Jewish ideals in my opinion.
    I never said I want Jews powerless. I want Jews to rise above the power structure and social paradigms that cause nations to harm one another, as the Jewish nation is harming another nation right now. I don’t want JEws to be involved in the same corporate ransacking of culture, or to be involved in arms sales. no i don’t. that has nothing to do with power, rc, it has to do with morals. And I bleieve strongly and will say loudly and publicly, I believe Zionism as a nationalist ideal has eroded our collective morals. that doesn’t

  63. that doesn’t mean I’m against Jewish power or have personal feelings against Zionism. It means that I have looked into my education and what I see with my own eyes and I come to my own conclusions.

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