The Lingual Pulse of Israeli National Thought: Street Signs and Linguistic Landscape in the Old City of Jerusalem

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Abstract

The Old City of Jerusalem is likely
the most hotly contested geographical
location in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The linguistic landscape in the Old City,
including street names and signs, can
shed light on power relations and political
agendas within the conflict. This article
examines the linguistic landscape of the
Old City after the Israeli occupation of
the West Bank (including East Jerusalem)
in 1967. It focuses on five different areas:
four quarters (Jewish, Christian, Muslim,
and Armenian) and al-Haram al-Sharif/
Temple Mount compound. Based on an
examination of several hundred street
signs, the authors’ findings indicate a
clear dominance of Hebrew in signage
throughout the Old City, evident in
different linguistic aspects. Two linguistic
behaviors were also obvious: firstly, in the
Jewish quarter, the linguistic landscape
promotes an Israeli nationalistic discourse
including physical erasure of the Arabic
language and Palestinian existence;
secondly, all other areas lack national
Palestinian content and aspirations. This
indicates the official Israeli view that there
is an exclusive Jewish right to national
identity while Palestinians must make do
with religious identity only. Our analysis
of signs in the Old City indicates two
Israeli-oriented, complementary features:
pro-active Jewish-Israeli nationalization,
and an Orientalist, British-inspired,
colonial and religious-centered attempt to
de-politicize the East
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12-37
JournalJerusalem Quarterly
Volume87
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2021

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