Many streets, roads, public squares and institutions in Israel are named for illustrious figures – great rabbis, cultural and social figures, political leaders. That honor is usually bestowed upon figures who have passed away, ensuring that the memory of their lives and deeds lives in the hearts of Israelis.
Usually, that is. But in the case of the Hadera municipality, that honor is being bestowed upon a man who, at last report, is still very much alive – President Shimon Peres, who, despite his advanced age (he turns 90 next August) is not only still alive and kicking, but also has two more years to serve in his current term as President.
The road in question will relieve congestion in Hadera, notorious for its traffic problems. Road 9 is an east-west highway that will connect Hadera, on the shores of the Mediterranean, with the Cross-Israel Highway (Road 6), enabling a faster connection for Hadera residents to the Sharon, Jerusalem area, and the southern suburbs of Tel Aviv. A special mass transit lane will be built adjacent to the road, strictly for the use of buses and taxis, to ensure that even the car-less are able to benefit from the faster ride.
Perhaps anticipating the raised eyebrows at the selection of Peres as the man to be honored thusly, the Hadera municipality released a statement saying that, unlike most other places in Israel, the policy of the city was to name roads and highways after living individuals, as well as those who have passed on. Thus, the city said, there was already a bridge named for former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in the city. Sharon, although in a coma, is still alive.
The municipality said that it had named streets and roads for every Prime Minister, except Binyamin Netanyahu, Ehud Olmert, and Ehud Barak, without taking into consideration whether or not they were still alive. Although Peres is still President, he is also a former Prime Minister, having served between November 4, 1995, after Yitzchak Rabin was assassinated, through June 1996.
With that, said one Hadera resident, it still seemed somewhat strange that the city would name a new highway for a sitting President. “Peres is almost 90, and he seems well, but at that age, you never know,” the resident said. “Maybe the mayor and city council know something the rest of us don't?”