Israel: New Names for Old
The reason for changing a name can be good or bad, but the effect is always the same: it conceals the past. Zionists gave Hebrew names to people and places to erase 2800 years between the fall of ancient Israel and the birth of modern Israel.
Lists of Israel’s leaders include many Hebrew names, but the least bit of analysis shows they or their parents were born with European surnames. See Israel’s first six prime ministers: David Ben-Gurion was born David Grün, Moshe Sharett was born Moshe Chertok, Levi Eshkol was born Levi Shkolnik, Yigal Allon was born Yigal Peikowitz, Golda Meir was born Golda Mabovitch, and Yitzhak Rabin’s father’s last name was originally Rubitzov.
While many immigrants change their names to blend into their new homeland, the early Zionists did not think of themselves as immigrants to Palestine and did not change their names to be more like the local Jewish, Christian, or Muslim Arabs. They called themselves colonists, but traditionally, colonists keep the names they had in the countries of their birth. Zionists, however, changed their names to make new identities in a new community. This kind of name-changing is unprecedented for colonists, but it is common for cultists who want to divorce their members from their past.
Being an old school socialist, I support the human right to do anything we please that hurts no one else, and that includes changing names we don’t like to names that please us. But being a lover of history and truth, when Zionists make claims like “Jews, like Palestinians, are native and indigenous to the land” to imply Israel was not a European colony like South Africa or Rhodesia, I have to note that the truth would be obvious if the first Zionist leaders had not changed their European names.
How and Why Jews Hebraized Their Family Names at the Founding of Israel points out that Jewish colonists in British Palestine were strongly encouraged to change their names:
In 1933, [Yitzḥak] Ben-Tsvi published an article in the Labor-party newspaper Davar headlined, “Get Rid of Your Alien Names!” In it he wrote:
Now that we are blessed…