Monday, February 23, 2004

A curious detail in today's New York Times article about this morning's suicide bombing in Jerusalem -- the article stated that the bombing occurred at Liberty Bell Park, close to the intersection of Bethlehem Road and a street named Valley of the Ghosts. This street is usually called by its Hebrew name in English news reports -- Emek Refaim -- but it does literally refer to ghosts. When I lived on Emek Refaim in the late 1980s my friends and I used to joke around about the name.

The street names in Jerusalem generally have some historical significance -- they name famous figures of the Jewish past, events, "friends of the Jews" like Masaryk or Emile Zola, learned rabbis, biblical figures, and wars. On my last visit to Israel I was staying on Ha-Portzim St. -- "those who break through." This was the name of one of the military units that fought in the 1948 war in Jerusalem. A nearby street was named Kovshei Katamon -- "the conquerors of Katamon." Pre-1948 the Katamon neighborhood was Arab, and the Israeli forces fought fiercely to take the area from them. Then there's Kaf-Tet be-November -- "29th of November" St., referring to the date in 1947 when the U.N. voted to partition Palestine into a Jewish and an Arab state.

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