Haaretz now reports that, "Of 2,439 streets in Tel Aviv, only 62 - a paltry 2.5 percent - are named for women." And we cannot blame this on Orthodox rabbis. Tel Aviv is a predominantly secular city. I was taught that Zionism was a basically egalitarian movement. It seems that is not reflected in street naming.
Can Israeli women break the glass ceiling - on street signs?
By Ilan Lior
The briefest of strolls through Tel Aviv will reveal one very long road indeed: the path to gender equality in street names.
Although women constitute half the population, their names are almost entirely absent from street signs. Of 2,439 streets in Tel Aviv, only 62 — a paltry 2.5 percent — are named for women.
The number dwindles even further when you realize that in six cases, the streets bear the names of women mentioned together with their husbands.
Three more women, the late poet and peace activist Dahlia Ravikovitch, concert pianist Pnina Salzman and Pelagia Khoury, who founded the Arab women’s movement, have been approved by the Tel Aviv municipal names committee as street names, but no streets have been named after them yet.
There are plenty of streets named after historical events and places and, of course, after men. But women, it seems, were not a priority when it comes to perpetuating memories of outstanding figures.
This state of affairs is perhaps more surprising in light of the fact that the last two people to head the Tel Aviv names committee were women: Miki Mazar and Haviva Avi-Guy, both lawyers. Avi-Guy, who finished her second term at the post three months ago, had pledged that she would see to it that more women’s names would be chosen for streets. Indeed, during her time as committee chairwoman the number of women’s names appearing on street signs more than doubled, going from a mere 38 in 2005 to 62 in late 2013.
When it came to street names, Avi-Guy “actually instituted affirmative action for women,” she told Haaretz on Monday. “There were almost no requests to name streets after women that we didn’t approve. The women were usually very worthy in every realm – culture, art, music, politics, education, journalism.”
It’s the public, not the city, that’s to blame for the underrepresentation of women on street signs, said Avi-Guy.
“I approached the general public and sought recommendations for women’s names, but there were not enough such recommendations,” she said. Anyone can field a suggestion, and the more suggestions of women’s names that are made, the more streets will be named after women.
“It’s inconceivable that in an advanced city like Tel Aviv, women won’t find themselves commemorated equally,” said Gaby Lasky, who represents Meretz on the city council and heads the municipality’s committee on the status of women.
“This is not only about a demand for gender equality in street names,” she said. “It’s also about the importance of perpetuating the work of these women in the public sphere.”