Nazareth Illit seeks new name to end ‘confusion’ with Jesus’ hometown
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City upon a hill

Nazareth Illit seeks new name to end ‘confusion’ with Jesus’ hometown

61 years after it was founded by Ben Gurion, northern town says it will break free of its neighbor, the largest Arab city in Israel

View of the majority Jewish city of Nazareth-Illit, built alongside Arab Nazareth, on August 10, 2015.  (Nati Shohat/FLASH90/File)
View of the majority Jewish city of Nazareth-Illit, built alongside Arab Nazareth, on August 10, 2015. (Nati Shohat/FLASH90/File)

The northern city of Nazareth Illit will be changing its name, 61 years after its founding, in a move the mayor said was designed to put an end to widespread confusion with the neighboring Arab city of Nazareth

Meaning Upper Nazareth, Nazareth Illit is a majority Jewish development town built next to the larger Arab city of Nazareth, famous as Jesus’ hometown.

“Nazareth Illit has launched a historic process to change the city’s name to distinguish it from its neighbor, Nazareth, to give it its own identity and end the public confusion,” said a Monday statement from the municipality shared on its Facebook page. “A public committee will accompany the process in cooperation with the residents and Interior Ministry.”

Alternate names have not yet been announced.

“It’s time to give Nazareth Illit an independent identity, and put an end to the chronic confusion between it and its neighbor Nazareth,” Mayor Ronen Plot said on Sunday, days after he was re-elected to the post.

Plot said the two Galilee cities were on “excellent neighborly terms,” but are “two separate entities with entirely different identities and character.”

Plot’s predecessor Shimon Gapso drew international attention in 2013 when he insisted he did not want Arabs who had been buying homes in the city to change Upper Nazareth’s “Jewish character.”

“I would rather cut off my right arm than build an Arab school,” he told The Washington Post at the time.

Arab Israeli women seen near the northern city of Nazareth on December 9, 2017 (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

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 the State of Israel.

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