Why is Israel named "Israel" and not "Judah" or Something Else?
We were asked the following question:
Maria V. Holder: I do have a question. When establishing the State if Israel, why was the name Israel chosen. It is fair to say that not all tribes are in the modern State and therefore not a Nation yet? Asking....
No-one really knows why the State of Israel received its name. In hindsight one may say that the only really pertinent options were "Judah" or "Israel". "Judah" was rejected since the borders of the State at the beginning did not include most of the historical area of Judah (see below). That left the name Israel.
Why Is Israel Called Israel?
As for the modern State of Israel, its beginnings lie in the 19th century, when the Jewish nationalist movement Zionism took shape. Members of the movement usually referred to the hoped-for nation to be formed in Palestine as 'the Jewish State,' as it was called by Theodor Herzl (in German) - 'Der Judenstaat.'
During the British Mandate, Palestine's official name in Hebrew was 'Eretz Yisrael.' That was the name that appeared in Hebrew (alongside "Palestine" in English and Arabic) on the local currency, stamps and official documents, lending the name "Israel" official status.
... an article by Palestine Post writer Moshe Brilliant, published a year later, at first the group wanted to go with the name Judah, the name of the ancient Jewish Kingdom. But this name was rejected, after some discussion, since most of historic Judah fell outside the borders of the nascent state according to the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine that was on the table at the time.
The group turned to other possible names - among them 'Zion' and 'Tzabar' (sabra) - but then someone suggested ï¿½Israelï¿½ and a vote was held. The name "Israel" won by 7 to 3.
As for who suggested the name, Brilliant says that it was Ben-Gurion himself. It is possible however that as he wrote a year after the event, he got this detail wrong. Moshe Sharett, Israel's second prime minister, had been calling the future Jewish State 'The State of Israel' in speeches at least since 1946, while Ben-Gurion was using 'Medinat HaYehudim' ('The State of the Jews'), so it seems plausible that it was Sharett, not Ben-Gurion. (In an interview in 1965, Ben-Gurion was asked who suggested the name, and replied he didn't remember).
Anyway, neither Ben-Gurion nor Sharett were first to call the nation "State of Israel" ("Medinat Yisrael"). That honor belongs to a rather obscure Jewish Galician writer named Isaac Pernhoff, who in response to Herzl's utopian outline of the Jewish state 'Altneuland,' published his own alternative view under the title 'Shney Dimyonot' ('Two imaginings'). In this short 1896 article, Pernhoff predicted that the Jewish state in Palestine would be called 'Medinat Yisrael' - the State of Israel. And so it was.