Belgium forbids Israelis to name child 'Jerusalem'

Sunday, August 18, 2013 |  Yossi Aloni

City Hall in Brussels, Belgium has refused to register the local birth of an Israeli baby because her parents named the child "Jerusalem." The name does not appear on an approved list of monikers for children born in the European country.

Alma Jerusalem was born to Alinadav and Hagar Hyman, Israelis who have lived and worked in Brussels for the past three years. Hagar is a security agent with Israel's El Al Airlines, and Alinadav works for the Israel lobby in the European Parliament.

"We are both Jerusalemites, we grew up in Jerusalem, we met in Jerusalem and we very much miss the city, so we decided to call our first child 'Jerusalem,'" said the new father. "We actually argued over whether Jerusalem would be the first or middle name, and in the end decided it would be our daughter's middle name."

When Alinadav went into the municipal offices in Brussels to get a birth certificate, he was shocked. "The clerk asked for the baby's name, so I said 'Alma Jerusalem,'" recalled the father. "After checking the computer, the clerk said Alma was OK, but that Jerusalem did not appear on the list of approved names, so could not be used for the baby's name."

Alinadav was certain the clerk must be joking. "There was a Finnish man in line next to me that named his child something in Finnish with 25 letters, and this name the Belgian clerk accepted, but not Jerusalem."

Oddly enough, the clerk suggested that the Israeli family name their child "Bethlehem," as that did appear on the list of approved names.

Finally, the clerk agreed to a compromise - the family could obtain an official letter from the Israeli embassy confirming that "Jerusalem" is a valid name for a child, and then the Belgian's would provide a birth certificate. The only problem - the Israeli embassy is not providing consular services due to a Foreign Ministry strike at home.

"Now we're trapped. We cannot take the baby to Israel because she has no passport, and without Israeli consular approval, the Belgians won't register the birth," explained the father. "I cannot say if the refusal to call the baby Jerusalem is political, but the speed with which the clerk refused us compared to how quickly the [unpronounceable] Finnish name was approved raised suspicions."

Alinadav concluded: "If the decision is political, it probably didn't come from upstairs, but rather from the clerk, who I am certain could have exercised discretion. I am very frustrated that in 2013 we have to pick names from approved lists, and we are both saddened that we cannot officially name our child Jerusalem, a city that is in our hearts and means so much to us."

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