Why Israel Is a World Leader in Catchy Political Party Names

Jewish Home? Meretz? Let's Call The Whole Thing Off

What’s in a Name?: When it comes to political parties in Israel, perhaps far too much.
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What’s in a Name?: When it comes to political parties in Israel, perhaps far too much.

By Philologos

Published March 03, 2013, issue of March 08, 2013.
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A Forward reader who modestly asks to remain anonymous writes:

“As an American Jew, my sources of information on Israeli politics are from English-language publications, the Forward being one of them. During the recent elections in Israel, I read about the Jewish Home party — and also about the Habayit Hayehudi [“Jewish Home” in Hebrew] party.

This got me to thinking: Why are some Israeli party names translated into English, others are not, and still others sometimes are and sometimes aren’t? The Labor Party is always known by its English name, never as the Ha’avodah party — but in that case, why is the Likud not known as the Solidarity Party? I’m curious to know what your thoughts are.”

Actually, since the Likud ran in the recent elections on a single Knesset list with Yisrael Beiteinu or the Israel Is Our Home party, it is now being called Likud Beiteinu or Solidarity Is Our Home — and with post-election Israeli coalition negotiations taking place in their usual Byzantine manner, it’s easy to see why English readers might be confused. Will Yesh Atid and Habayit Hayehudi stick together to keep Likud Beiteinu from going with Shas and Agudat Yisra’el now that Hatnuah has come aboard and Kadima is possibly next?

That’s certainly a mouthful for the English reader — but would it be any better if we asked, “Will There Is a Future and The Jewish Home continue collaborating to prevent Solidarity Is Our Home from signing with the Talmud and United Torah Judaism parties now that it’s finished lining up The Movement with Onward on its heels?”

In fact, however, such linguistic inconsistency has always accompanied the names of Israeli political parties in English. Back in the country’s early days, its ruling socialist party, David Ben-Gurion’s Mapai (a Hebrew acronym for Mifleget Po’alei Eretz-Yisra’el, “the Workers’ Party of the Land of Israel), was called Mapai in English, too, never “the Israel Workers Party” or “the IWP.”


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