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Changing Arabic names of Jerusalem heritage sites is attempt to ‘Judaise’ city — study

By Renad Aljadid - May 27,2018 - Last updated at May 27,2018

The study provides a complete and sustainable documentation of the geographical names of heritage and archaeological sites in Jerusalem (file photo)

AMMAN — The Israeli occupation has changed the Arabic names of 667 archaeological and heritage sites in Jerusalem with the aim of “Judaising the city” and “erasing its historical and religious identity”, according to a recent study.

“Replacing the Arabic names is part of a long-term and systematic attempt to distort facts and falsify the real identity of the holy city until the future generation forgets its Arab and Islamic identity,” Ibrahim Bazazo, researcher and dean of the Faculty of Tourism and Hospitality at the University of Jordan told The Jordan Times on Sunday.

The study was conducted over the course of three years by Jordanians Omar Jawabreh, Mohammad Sarayreh, Haitham Abdelraza and Bazazo, under the title “Towards Sustainable Documentation of Geographical Names of Touristic and Heritage Sites in Occupied Jerusalem Using Geographical Information System [GIS]”.

Researchers used documents dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries, including holy books, historical and geographical atlases.

“The new names are chosen based on 10 different manifestations, including the names of Zionist figures and fighters, names of Israeli leaders and colonies, in addition to Talmudic and Tanakh names, which all aim at perpetuating their memory and forcing a ‘Judaised’ identity,” Bazazo said, adding that “the core of the problem lies in the replacement of the Arabic names not only from all signs and banners but also from school books and official curricula”.

The study provides a “complete and sustainable” documentation of the geographical names of all the heritage and archaeological sites in Jerusalem, using technological means by providing spatial databases of all the Arab sites that have been “Judaised” in addition to digitised images and schematic layouts, according to the study, a copy of which was sent to The Jordan Times. 

Bazazo noted that the study is only “the first stage” of a process that will include a historical sustainable record documenting the original names of the holy land’s sites, as well as a guidebook.

“It is now the role of government institutions and civil society organisations to use the research data and take action to stop the Judaisation of Jerusalem,” the researcher said, stressing: “We should speak out to the international institutions and the International Court of Justice to ensure that our identity is preserved and protected.”

A similar effort by Omar Al Ghul, an associate professor at Yarmouk University, was the translation of the “Jerusalem and its Terrains” by Gustaf Dalman from German to Arabic, with the aim of preserving the Arabic names of Jerusalem’s sites and areas before 1930’s.

“We cannot deny the Judaisation processes which are evidenced by the existence of a special committee in the Knesset to change the Arabic names, but the urban development also has a role to play,” Ghul told The Jordan Times.

Ghul also made a distinction between East Jerusalem and West Jerusalem, stating that “the eastern part is an occupied land by the international conventions so the Arabic names should not be changed, but the western part is recognised internationally as part of the Israeli state”. 

During the Extraordinary Session of the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation (OIC) held in Istanbul earlier this month, His Majesty King Abdullah called for “immediate measures by brotherly Arab and Muslim countries to support the perseverance of Palestinians and empower them economically, while countering attempts to Judaise Jerusalem and alter its Arab, Islamic, and Christian identity”.

After efforts spearheaded by Jordan, UNESCO, in June, 2016, officially adopted an Arab-sponsored resolution condemning Israel’s actions at holy sites in East Jerusalem and stipulating the recognition of the Al Aqsa Mosque/Al Haram Sharif as an official name of the site.

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