Israeli signs in Hebrew only

2009-07-13 16:40

Jerusalem - The Israeli transport ministry said on Monday that it will get rid of Arabic and English names for cities and towns on road signs, keeping only the Hebrew terms.

"Minister Yisrael Katz took this decision that will be progressively applied," a ministry spokeswoman told AFP.

Currently Israeli road signs are written in Hebrew, Arabic and English, with the city names in each language. So Jerusalem is identified as Yerushalaim in Hebrew, Jerusalem in English and al-Quds in Arabic.

Under the new policy the Holy City will only be identified as Yerushalaim in all three languages. Nazareth (al-Nasra in Arabic) will be identified as Natzrat and Jaffa will only be written as Yafo.

Katz told the mass-selling Yediot Aharonot that the move was a response to the Palestinian refusal to use Hebrew names for some Israeli towns.

"On Palestinian maps, Israeli towns are often still identified with the Arabic names used before the 1948 war" when Israel was created, he said.

Israel gave Hebrew names, often of biblical origin, to many villages, towns and areas that came under its control following the 1948 war.

Elections earlier this year brought a right-wing coalition to power that includes the ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party, which has demanded Israel's Arab minority demonstrate greater loyalty to the Jewish state.

Israel's 1.2 million Arab citizens account for 20% of its population and are descended from Palestinians who remained inside Israel following the 1948 war and the creation of the state.