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Which Language is Correct?

Road signs in Israel must be in the three official languages of the country: Hebrew, Arabic and English. The American architect of the Ben Gurion 2000 International Airport Project “forgot” the Arabic and after losing in court all the signs had to be replaced. But even if the sign is written in three languages the message can be very different in each language. I would like to show you two examples from Jerusalem.

Zion Gate

As you can see the Arabic line has converted King David to become a prophet of Islam. The Jewish name of Zion has disappeared.

  • Hebrew: Zion Gate
  • English: Zion Gate
  • Arabic: David the Prophet Gate

Muristan Road

Muristan Road is in the the Old City of Jerusalem. The name Muristan comes from Persian Bimarestan بیمارستان meaning “Hospital”. There are Christian traditions base on the Second Book of Maccabees (3:1-40) that a hospital was founded by the Hasmonean kingdom. For many centuries a Benedictine hospital stood close to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre even under Islamic rule. In the middle ages the  Knights Hospitaller established a hospital close to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. After Jerusalem was conquered by Sultan Saladin, this hospital became know as “Muristan”. The Hospitaller site was deserted in the 16th century. In the late 1800’s the church was rebuilt by German Lutherans. Part of the Hospitaller area was transferred to the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate. This part is now occupied by the Greek bazaar.


The Arabic wording identifies the Hospitaller site with the conquest by Saladin.

  • Hebrew: Muristan Road
  • English: Muristan Road
  • Arabic: Saladin Muristan Road

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