Residents of Nazareth Illit, or upper Nazereth, this week voted to change the name of the northern city, in a move the mayor said was designed to put an end to widespread confusion with the neighboring Arab city of Nazareth.
In a Tuesday referendum, nearly 80 percent of residents voted in favor of changing the city’s name to Nof Hagalil, meaning Galilee View in Hebrew. The results were announced Friday.
Residents picked the name from a group of five submissions by the public, which included Nof Illit, Kiryat Hagalil, Neve Illit and Nofey Illit.
The naming committee at the Prime Minister’s Office green lighted the name change, though it had previously suggested the unpopular “Netzer Hagalil” for its new name.
Nazareth Illit is a majority Jewish development town built next to the larger Arab city of Nazareth, famously known as Jesus’ hometown.
After he was elected mayor in November, Ronen Plot said it was “time to give Nazareth Illit an independent identity, and put an end to the chronic confusion” between the city and its neighbor Nazareth.
“Instead of correcting people all the time, this mistake should be corrected once and for all, to give Nazareth Illit a name that distinguishes it from Nazareth, and so it can join the revolution of renewal that has been taking place in the city for the last two and a half years,” Plot told reporters in March.
Arab lawmaker Yousef Jabarin hailed the name change, as long as it didn’t contribute to further separation between the Arab and Jewish cities.
“There is only one Nazareth, and that is the Arab Nazareth, one of the most important cities in the world,” he said, adding that Nazareth Illit was built on land expropriated from local Arabs.
“Nazareth was left behind in the socio-economic index… so we must ensure that this name change does not deepen discrimination or the economic gaps between the two cities,” he said.
Founded in 1957 by then-prime minister David Ben-Gurion, Nazareth Illit is home to 40,000 residents, some three-quarters of them Jewish, and one-quarter Arab.
Nearby Nazareth is home to 76,000 residents. It is the largest Arab city in Israel.