Why the Top 10 List of Israeli Baby Names Makes Me Cry

Why the Top 10 List of Israeli Baby Names Makes Me Cry

Yesterday I came across some pleasant surprises on the 2014 top ten list of Israeli names from Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics.

The #1 most popular name for boys last year? NOAM! The name of the adorable baby nephew I got to skype with on Friday.

#9 for boys? Yehonatan! My baby! (my baby’s actually Yonatan, but no need to get too picky here…)

And then there were the names that weren’t surprises. Among girls– five of the top names are from the Bible– Noa (#1), Tamar (#2), Yael (#5), Avigail (#8), Sara (#10).

And among boys? A whopping seven of the top ten are from the Bible. David (#3), Yosef (#4), Itai (#6), Ariel (#7), Daniel (#8), Yehonatan (#9), and Moshe (#10).

And looking at that list of names, tears came to my eyes as I realized how much I LOVE THAT.

I love living in a place, and being part of a people where we name our newborns after heroes and heroines who have been inspiring us as spiritual role models for over three millennia.

I had a similar feeling when I read through last week’s haftorah, and read how on his deathbed 3000 years ago, #8 (David HaMelech) instructed his son, Shlomo, to walk before Hashem sincerely, and to raise his children to walk before Hashem with all their heart and all their souls, and to observe Hashem’s mitzvot and laws as written in the Torah of Moshe.
3000 years have passed, I thought, and we are still doing all that. Doing our best to walk before Hashem and keep his Torah and mitzvot, and raising our children to do the same.

Yesterday, we ran into our very old friend, a secular Israeli with two young children. He told us, “I look around me, at all the violence, and I feel despair. I have young children, and I feel like we are leaving them and their generation a country with no future.”

But while I can also get down and pessimistic because of all the scary headlines flashing on this screen, in general I feel very differently about our future.

I look at that list of names. And I think of that haftorah. And I think of all the balagan and fighting and violence which has filled the loooong history of the Jewish people.

And that reminds me that life for the Jewish people is never dull. And never smooth.

In fact we are probably in the running for the nation with the messiest history in the history of the world.

But we are also in the running for the nation with the longest history.The greatest history.On a spiritual level, the most GLORIOUS history, even.

And that reminds me and comforts me that it is not for nothing we are called “Am HaNetsach”–the eternal people.


  1. Beautiful! So inspirirng. Do you know Mark Twain’s article about the Jews? Your article reminded me of it.

    • right, I should post that too!

      “If the statistics are right, the Jews constitute but one quarter of one percent of the human race. It suggests a nebulous puff of star dust lost in the blaze of the Milky Way. Properly, the Jew ought hardly to be heard of, but he is heard of, has always been heard of. He is as prominent on the planet as any other people, and his importance is extravagantly out of proportion to the smallness of his bulk.

      His contributions to the world’s list of great names in literature, science, art, music, finance, medicine and abstruse learning are also very out of proportion to the weakness of his numbers. He has made a marvelous fight in this world in all ages; and has done it with his hands tied behind him. He could be vain of himself and be excused for it. The Egyptians, the Babylonians and the Persians rose, filled the planet with sound and splendor, then faded to dream-stuff and passed away; the Greeks and Romans followed and made a vast noise, and they were gone; other people have sprung up and held their torch high for a time but it burned out, and they sit in twilight now, and have vanished.

      The Jew saw them all, survived them all, and is now what he always was, exhibiting no decadence, no infirmaties, of age, no weakening of his parts, no slowing of his energies, no dulling of his alert but aggressive mind. All things are mortal but the Jews; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality? ”

      – September 1897 (Quoted in The National Jewish Post & Observer, June 6, 1984)

  2. You forgot that number 1 for girls is Noa, that is also a biblical name (one of the daughters of Tzelapchad).
    Thanks for that article. It also shows that more babies are born to Jews connected to their heritage.
    Yes, when we are part of something bigger, another link in our eternal chain, no one can overcome us.

  3. While I agree with your message of optimism, unfortunately this haftorah is quite problematic. Yes, David HaMelech offers spiritual guidance. But quite a bit more of what’s on his mind on his deathbed is who Shlomo should seek revenge from, and who should be honored. There are more names on the revenge list than honorees. I am not the first to note and comment on this, and unfortunately it is a sad statement of David’s final thoughts. Perhaps this aspect of his personality was also the reason behind Hashem not allowing David to build the Beis HaMikdash, he was an ‘ish milchamah.’ The greater message to me is that there is a time for war and a time for peace, as Shlomo himself says in Kohelet. I can redirect my thoughts that way. But I always find David’s final words saddening, a statement of what was uppermost on his mind.

    • I haven’t read the revenge list but I ask, is the revenge for the honor of Hashem or David Hamelech’s own honor?

      • Read it — it is retribution against people who either killed others who supported David, or someone who cursed David. It’s just sad to read. We think of revenge as Hashem’s department, at least I do. Not a deathbed wish; soemone I discussed this with said it sounds like that old 1970s movie “The Godfather”.

        • We can’t compare someone of David Hamelech’s high level to someone of today. When I read David’s final thoughts I often ponder if he did what he did in order for them to get their punishment in this world rather than have to face something far worse than imagined in the next world.

  4. i enjoy reading that!
    thank you

  5. Vintage Chana Jenny

  6. May we all be blessed to work through our issues and be free from grudges and negativity on our deathbeds… it’s not pashut…it actually gives me hope and chizuk to continue fighting for my tikkunim so as to merit yishuv hada’at before I die bezH ad 120…even David ha melech struggled with this…Hashem should bless all of am yisrael with peace in our hearts and minds and consciences while we dwell here in olam hazeh — in good health, with strength and success in all our endeavors both physical and spiritual. Amen!

  7. Unfortunately, the very top name on the list for all of Israel, taking every group into consideration, is Mohammad. That made me cry, too. 🙁

    • I think Jenny was crying joyful/soulful tears. If Mohammad is # 1 than there are more arabs having babies or using this name in compared with other names. That is tears of saddness…. How could Noam be the top name? unless we are talking about different groups.

      • this is just the list for Israeli Jewish babies– doesn’t include other religions

    • didn’t see that…

    • Don’t be too sad, it doesn’t mean there are more arab babies. It means that most arabs are calling their baby boys mohammed, which means that if the jews are dividing their names among many different ones. and the arabs are merely sticking to one overwhelmingly popular name: of course in pure numbers there might be more mohammeds than moshe’s. But if one looks at the numbers of Jewish names versus Arab names as a whole there’s no need to worry we are the clear majority. There is a recent phenomena for the first time in decades that the Arab birthrate is the lowest ever in history and dropping fast. Apparently the reason is education…..
      And the Israeli birthrate is at the highest ever, even among secular Israelis.
      Shabbat Shalom

  8. The people Dovid told his son to avenge were people he should have dealt with according to Torah dictates in his lifetime. He was forgiving of them and overlooked his own honor in doing so. Toward the end of his life, he realized he was wrong in doing so but no longer had the power to correct his mistakes. This is why he asked his son to do it. Not for his own honor, but for Hashem.

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