What's in a Name?

Untitled (Man fishing with net at Galilee or Aqaba)


(Man fishing with a net at Galilee or Aquaba), 1931-1938

In this exhibition, we use ‘Palestine’, the country’s name under the British Mandate, for the area today known as Israel and the Palestinian Territories.

Historically, Palestine has always been a demographically mixed region under predominantly foreign occupation: from the 4th Century BC to the 3rd Century AD alone, it was controlled by Macedonians, Ptolemies, Seleucids, Hasmoneans, Parthians, and Romans. Therefore, it is important to study all aspects of Palestine’s multicultural heritage.

In 1925, the Central Names Committee began naming in English and Hebrew new Jewish settlements and renaming existing settlements which had existing Arabic names. The colonial and nationalist agendas underpinning this powerful manipulation of language only helped to create ongoing tensions.

Although the Mandate recognised Palestine as a Jewish National Home, scholars such as Gruen (Diaspora 2002, 3-5) have demonstrated that in antiquity, the majority of Jewish people lived outside Palestine in the diaspora: in Syria, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Asia Minor, the Aegean, Greece, and Italy, including Rome. Names, therefore, have been (and still are) used as powerful ideological tools in constructing political, cultural and historical identities in Palestine.