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Official Wants ‘Gaza Street’ Renamed

November 26, 2003

JERUSALEM (AP) _ Branching out from the city like points on a compass, some of Jerusalem’s modern roads still bear the names of biblical trade routes that led to Mediterranean seaports, desert towns and other ancient cities.

A city council member wants to change the name of one of them, Gaza Street, because he believes that, after three years of fighting, the name of the coastal Palestinian city brings to mind terrorism and violence.

``It’s the city of terror. ... We don’t want Gaza in Jerusalem,″ said David Hadari, 38, a first-time council member, who is seeking a vote on the change.

Some historians warn that wiping out the name threatens Jerusalem’s historical character as a city open to all the world. While some residents shrug off the idea as silly, others say it’s more evidence that Israelis are trying to seal themselves off from things and places Palestinian.

The half mile-long, tree-shaded street winds southwest, away from the walled Old City and through the upscale Jewish neighborhood of Rehavia, past apartments, hair salons, city parks and a handful of cafes and nightspots.

Feelings are mixed on Gaza Street.

Yair Danziger, 25, has lived in an apartment overlooking the road, stood on its sidewalk as a security guard at the prime minister’s house, and is now a manager at the newly rebuilt Cafe Moment, which was crushed by the blast of a suicide bomber who killed 11 people at its crowded bar one night in March 2002.

``Names will not change our life,″ he said, as a few people finished a late lunch at the cafe on No. 12 Gaza Street. ``I think it’s really stupid to change the name.″

Enrique Jaffe, 46, thinks the Gaza name should go. He’s lived and worked on the street, where he owns a health food store, for two decades.

``For me, it’s funny and strange to say I live and I work in Gaza,″ he said.

Hebrew University geography professor Shlomo Hasson said the desire for a name change is a sign of hardened attitudes toward the Palestinians. Following the same trend, he says, is Israel’s massive project to seal off the West Bank _ and Jerusalem’s Arab fringes _ with fences, trenches and razor wire.

``Many of us believe Jerusalem should be an open city without walls, barriers,″ Hasson said. ``This council member wishes to reverse this trend, making it a closed ghetto.″

Jerusalem’s modern streets were built from the Old City outward at the end of the 19th century. Some roughly correspond to biblical routes. There’s a Hebron Road, Bethlehem Road, Nablus and Jaffa roads and a road going down to Jericho and the Dead Sea. The ancient Gaza route linked Mediterranean shores with Jerusalem.

Hadari wants to rename the street for one of Israel’s founding fathers, Yosef Burg, who lived near Gaza Street and died in 1999. Hadari is also a member of the National Religious Party, which Burg founded.

The proposal is up for a vote in a municipal street names committee and then will have to pass the 31-member city council. Hadari expects the vote within two months.

Gal Sela, a 27-year-old dentistry student, said that even stranger than having a ``Gaza Street″ in a Jewish neighborhood was the presence of some 6,000 Israeli settlers living in heavily guarded outposts in the Gaza Strip itself, surrounded by 1.3 million Palestinians.

Eran Sternberg, spokesman for the Gaza settlers, said the name change avoids the real issue _ fighting Palestinian terror groups whose local headquarters are in the strip.

``It doesn’t matter if they replace the name ‘Gaza’ _ Gaza will (come) back again and again to the streets of Jerusalem,″ he said.

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