Adiel Cohen from Tel Aviv University tweeted on Wednesday: “‘Home and Garden’ is actually a reference to the city’s original Hebrew name before it was colonized by the Arabs, Beit HaGan (“Garden Home”), which was Arabized as “Jenin.” But keep throwing these cheap propaganda buzzwords in the air I’m sure it helps.”
Cohen shared an earlier tweet by Avraham, an Arab-Jewish human rights activist, who noted: “Israel named its ethnic cleansing operation in Jenin, ‘Home and Garden.’ Reminiscent of the settler colonial trope deployed by Israel about making the desert bloom. Israel plans to clean up Jenin and plant a ‘Garden’ in its stead, leaving ‘Home’ for us, not for them.”
You get the point. So, leaving aside the 57-year-long dispute over the liberated-occupied territories, what is the origin of the name Jenin?
According to a 1956 article by archaeologist and the first director of the Israel Antiquities Authority Shmuel Yeivin, Jenin is first mentioned in Egyptian documents from 2000-1750 BCE, where it is called “Jen.” A few hundred years later, it is mentioned as one of the cities in the territory of the tribe of Issachar: Remeth, Ein-gannim, Ein-haddah, and Beit-pazzez (Joshua 19:21). Ein Ganim can be translated as “brook gardens.”
Many years later, in II Kings 9:27, its name is Beit Hagan: “King Ahaziah of Judah saw this and fled along the road to Beit-Hagan.” Now, you’ll have to admit, that’s pretty close to Operation House and Garden.
The Book of Judith, an ancient Midrashic work dealing with the Persian period in Eretz Israel (6th to 4th centuries BCE), mentions Gini as the Jewish town near which the Assyrian General Holofernes camped. In his “Wars of the Jews,” Josephus mentions Ganim as located in northern Samaria.
To answer the human rights activist’s claim: the name Home and Garden for the IDF operation against the terrorist hub in Jenin was not picked as an expression of Israel’s plan to clean Jenin up and turn it into a garden. It turns out she has been a garden since ancient times. Indeed, I’d venture most Israelis would be delighted if the people of Jenin themselves turned their city into a garden, instead of a valley of death.