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Plan to Name Israel Square in Moscow Hits Roadblocks

A proposal to rename a Moscow street in honor of Israel is running into some snags.

During his visit to Israel in April, Mayor Yuri Luzhkov promised to name a square in central Moscow in honor of the Jewish state after attending a ceremony, broadcast in Russian television, in which a square in front of a Russian Orthodox Church in Jerusalem was renamed Moscow Square.

“There is nothing wrong in having an Israel square in Moscow if they have a Moscow square in the very center of their city,” said Luzhkov spokesman Sergei Tsoi.

But it appears to be easier said than done.

City lawmakers are saying that there is no suitable site in Moscow for the proposed Israel square, and Tsoi said the location should have some historical association with Israel or Judaism.

This could present difficulties since Moscow — unlike many Eastern European cities — never had an official Jewish ghetto. In addition, renaming streets and squares in the center of Moscow is virtually impossible due to a special Moscow ordinance that requires a strict adherence to historical street names.

Moscow already has two streets named with Jerusalem-inspired names, but these roads were named after a Russian Orthodox monastery.

Several members of the Moscow city legislature, including a Jewish deputy, said renaming a square to honor Israel could cause an anti-Semitic backlash.

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