We live in Israel in a city honoring the Jewish hero Theodor Herzl. Entering our city from the qviche ha chof (the coastal road) a large statue of Herzl stands to welcome visitors and those who call the city home. It can’t be missed. And, fittingly, the city is called Herzliya. Herzl would be proud of his “hometown,” as it’s growing in giant strides with enormous building cranes piercing the sky and blocking the clouds above. We are proud to live in a place that bears such an illustrious name. A city on the move with a diverse and pluralistic population.
Our street intersects with the street bearing the name of another contemporary hero, David Ben Gurion. It’s a name we utter often. Turn left at Ben Gurion. Go straight up Ben Gurion until you come to the supermarket. How can we ever forget Ben Gurion? Simply, we cannot.
And we live on Rehov Chana Senesh, a street name often found in Israeli towns to mark the short and heroic life of a young Hungarian woman, girl really, who left life much too soon. We use her name often as well. It rolls off our tongues and the tongues of all those many Israelis who live in some town with a street named Chana Senesh. How appropriate!
When we first came to Israel, our brother-in-law Zeev, z”l, drove us throughout the country. We often asked about the streets. Who was this or that street named for. Zeev had a boilerplate reply: an early Zionist.
Largely this was, in fact, true, but there were exceptions. Streets named Allenby or King George or Abraham Lincoln or George Washington. Even a Truman here and there. A Kennedy Memorial, but no Bushes or Obamas or Reagans or even Jeffersons or Johnsons. At least none I can identify.
In America, street names are sometimes logical and sometimes not. I lived at the intersection of Aldine Street and Forest Place. Forest Place was hardly a forest. I don’t think the tiny street had a single tree when I was growing up. And as for Aldine, well there is an Aldine, Texas but it was named for some local Texan. Nobody from Newark came up on my Google search. The mystery shall continue.
Now I live near the intersection of Pleasant Valley Way. Aha! A street name that is so logical! It’s a valley and it’s pleasant. Why not stick with what you’ve got! And of course nearby are streets named Summit, Valley, Water (don’t buy a house there), Brookside, Lakeview, Broad, Center and many more. So matter of fact. So telling. So unmysterious.
Now what if you live in a housing development like I do. We are mostly Jews here, but all the streets, each and every one, has an Irish name. Sullivan, Cummings. No problem. Why not Irish? But, what if you live on a street called after a Polish man named Kosciusko and no one can ever pronounce it correctly? Or spell it correctly? Well, he was a great Revolutionary War hero so he’s entitled to his name on a street, and bridge as well. But Sullivan is clearly easier to get along with.
Some names make no sense at all. We had a summer place in Parksville NY. Parksville is a tiny hamlet with under 1,000 people. The village had two main streets and our house was on one of them. The street was called Fifth Avenue. Problem was there was no first, second, third or fourth. Nonetheless the name stuck through the years. No one knows why.
And then there are streets with poignant history right in the great state of New Jersey. A group of Holocaust survivors were saved by Schindler. These gentlemen became builders and they built neighborhoods throughout the state. Wherever they built there is a street named Schindler. Maybe you live there.
And now return with me to Israel, our Jewish homeland, yours and mine. A new square has been announced in the Arnona neighborhood, near the new location of the embassy of the United States of America. The square is being named for Donald Trump. I have my thoughts on this. Let’s just say for the sake of shalom bayit that naming the square for him is akin to naming Fifth Avenue in Parksville. Foolish.