Throughout the nation’s capital, streets are named for women spanning many time periods and walks of life.
Baka has the largest percentage of streets named after women. They include such Biblical luminaries as the matriarch Rivka (Rebecca); Tzipora, wife of Moses; Esther Hamalka, the queen of Persia and the heroine in the Purim holiday; Yael, a heroine in the period of the Judges, who killed the commander of the army of Hatzor; Yocheved, heroine and mother of Moses; and Miriam Hachashmonait, the wife of King Herod.
Some Jerusalem streets are named for female sages. Two examples are Bruriah, a Talmudic sage who was admired for her tremendous breadth of knowledge (see Tractate Pesachim 62b), and Professor Nechama Leibowitz, a 20th-century Bible scholar and commentator credited with rekindling interest in Bible study.
Other streets are named for women who left their mark in the world of culture and the arts. One example is Professor Gertrud Kraus, a dancer and choreographer, and the creator of modern dance in Israel. Kraus was a true Renaissance woman, as she was also an accomplished painter and sculptor.
Some streets are named for authors, such as Leah Goldberg, who crafted tales and literary works and lectured at the Hebrew University, and prominent poets such as Zelda Michkovsky and Rachel Sela.
Other streets are named in memory of fighters during World War II and Israel’s War of Independence, such as Zahara Levito, a pilot and commander of a Palmach squad who was killed in the line of duty in 1948, and the legendary Hannah Senesh, a poet, playwright and paratrooper who parachuted into Yugoslavia to rescue Hungarian Jews about to be departed to Auschwitz. Some of Senesh’s poems were later set to music and became popular Israeli folk songs.
In addition, streets are named after female politicians—such as Golda Meir, Israel’s fourth prime minister, who was known as “the grandmother of the Jewish people”—educators, activists, philanthropists and Righteous Gentiles.
A large majority of Jerusalem streets are named after men but there has been a movement over the past decade to reverse this trend. Case in point: Two newly constructed streets in Baka are named after women. At the luxurious Park Eight project, the main pedestrian boulevard has been named Dina Street, in memory of the Biblical figure Dina, daughter of the patriarch Jacob and matriarch Leah.
At the Bustan Baka project, a new street is named after Martha Bamberger, who was active in Women’s International Zionist Organization, or WIZO, where she founded a chain of handicraft stores. In addition, Bamberger assisted Jewish refugees who moved to Israel after World War II as well as Jews who had been evacuated from their homes during Israel’s War of Independence. She also championed the “cottage industry” concept, helping women work from home, raise their children and provide income for their families.
The Jewish nation has been blessed with powerful women who have helped shape the course of Jewish history. It’s heartening to see their efforts recognized in the public forum.
By Gedaliah Borvick