Most cities in Israel have streets named after the usual historical personalities – men who played a main role in building Israel’s state and story. Popular street names in Israel span from Theodor Herzl, the father of Zionism, to Eliezer Ben Yehuda, the reviver of the Hebrew language, to David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first esteemed Prime Minister, to Ze’ev Jabotinsky, perhaps one of Israel’s first Zionist “community managers.”
Yet what was once, is now shifting, believes Professor Maoz Azaryahu, an extensive researcher on the history and politics of street names. He found that street names used to be an opportune approach for garnering political power and influence. Working as the head of the Herzl Institute for the Study of Zionism in the University of Haifa, Azaryahu has penned two books on how street names weave into politics, culture and urban development. Main cities like Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa have experienced the political play. Some cities choose different themes, such as Lod which names streets in a biblical fashion, or Beer Sheva which gets street name inspiration from nature’s herbs and spices.
Yet Azaryahu predicts a cultural shift taking place, with a new focus on the rise of artists…and women. As many historical figures have streets in many cities around the country, and with further development, a rise is being seen in notable cultural influencers. Azaryahu predicts more streets being named after the likes of Naomi Shemer, Arik Einstein, Yaffa Yarkoni, late Israeli artists who have left a positive imprint on society. It might seem a small shift; yet there certainly lies an underlying power in street names, and instead of commemorating politicians, artists and their creative expressions are taking the spotlight on every corner.