A curious street party took place Friday in the southern Baka neighborhood of Jerusalem when a group of women gathered to celebrate the naming of a new road in the capital, Dina Street, in honor of the biblical figure who was the daughter of the patriarch Jacob and matriarch Leah.
What made the event unusual was that all nine of those taking part carried the same name — Dina — albeit with some spelling variations.
The gathering was organized by Deena Levenstein and Dina Pinner via Facebook and invited all those named after the original Dinah to mark the new street.
Dina Street is a small pedestrian mall that leads through a new housing complex off the city’s Bethlehem Road, in the south of the capital. Many of the streets in the area are named after biblical characters –including 11 of Jacob’s 12 sons, excluding Joseph.
The organizers said they were not sure when the street was first opened and named. Pinner (an acquaintance of this reporter) said that although she lives nearby she only heard about the street when a friend posted a picture of the street sign on Facebook, which gave her the idea of having a celebration.
Joined by a common name and all living in Jerusalem, the Dinas included immigrants from a variety of countries and professions. There was a speech therapist, a statistician, a teacher and a doula Dina.
Dina Herz, originally from Switzerland, who works as a chaplain at the Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem, brought a photograph given to her by another Dina, a patient at the medical center who was unable to attend the event. The photo was her way of participating, even if she wasn’t physically there.
“She asked me to represent her,” Herz explained.
The gathering also produced an unexpected reunion — Dina Michal Zetner recalled that she was Levenstein’s teacher when she first arrived in Israel from Toronto at the age of 11.
Some of the Dinas were sabras. Dina Rachel Segev, who works in geographic information systems at the Central Bureau of Statistics, is an eighth-generation Jerusalemite. She came across town from her home in Pisgat Ze’ev to participate in the street party that, she explained, held special significance for her: As part of her job at the CBS, she has been tasked with mapping Dina Street and its new apartments.
“I always feel a connection with other Dinas,” Levenstein said. “The idea of a group of Dinas meeting on a long-time-coming street in our name was an opportunity not to be missed. Any chance to take people from different backgrounds and connect them, I love.”
“I’m amazed so many Dinas came,” she added. “It is so touching.”
As for the spelling of her name, Deena, rather than the more common “Dina,” she said it was her parents who decided on it but noted that it is a more accurate translation into English of the original Hebrew.
Her family evidently has a certain penchant for the biblical family. Her father’s name is Yaakov, her grandfather was named Yitzchak — the original Hebrew forms of Jacob and Isaac — and she has a brother called Joseph.
Pinner, an English teacher who immigrated from the United Kingdom, said that her Arab students often point out that Dina is a popular name for Arab women too.
Genesis 34 tells Dinah’s dramatic story, known to Christians as “The rape of Dinah,” and recalls how Jacob and his family camped at Shechem, identified as being near the modern West Bank city of Nablus. Dinah went to visit the local women but the son of the local prince took Dinah and raped her, but also fell in love with her and asked his father to negotiate with Jacob to obtain her hand in marriage. However, two of Dinah’s brothers, Shimon and Levi, instead avenged their sister and killed all of the men of the city, plundered it and brought Dinah back to her family.
Although public attention recently has been focused on sexual harassment following accusations of abuse at the hands of a growing list of Hollywood figures, for Pinner it isn’t Dinah’s rape that comes to mind when she thinks of her namesake, but rather the biblical figure’s efforts to build bridges with her neighbors.
“I don’t associate with her story of sexual assault, rather her as one of the tribes [of Israel]… I associate with her being part of a great family who wanted to connect with people.”
Following the success of their first happening, the Dinas are now considering forming a social media group — to help other Dinas connect.