On January 28, 1996, a Muslim baby was born in Jordan.
The controversial baby name he was given? Yitzhak Rabin.
His parents chose the name “in honor of the historic Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty signed in 1994 by [Israel’s Prime Minister Yitzhak] Rabin and Jordan’s King Hussein.”
The name was initially rejected by Jordan’s state registrar on the grounds that Jewish names were illegal. But Yitzhak’s parents, Rajai and Miriam, fought to keep the name and won.
The couple was relentlessly harassed about Yitzhak’s name — by strangers, neighbors, even relatives. Rajai lost his job. Miriam and the baby “were forced to move from place to place like fugitives, even spending nights in bus depots and a safehouse with an uncle in Amman.”
No longer safe in Jordan, the family relocated to Israel in 1998 with the help of Leah Rabin (Yitzhak’s widow).
They had a hard time adjusting, but “the most tragic situation befell Miriam’s brother back in Jordan, who, according to Miriam, was murdered by a group of thugs as revenge for his nephew’s name.”
Miriam took Yitzhak to Jordan with the intention of attending her brother’s funeral, but, in her telling, a melee ensued at the border crossing, where a small group of protesters awaited them. She put Yitzhak, still a toddler, back on the bus to Israel, bruised and bleeding. It was the last time he would set foot on the soil of his native country.
Ever since, the family has lived in exile. The Israeli government has promised to make the family permanent residents, but that hasn’t happened yet, so there’s a chance they could one day be sent back to Jordan.
Yitzhak, now 18, considers himself an Israeli. He speaks only Hebrew, plans to convert to Judaism, and hopes to enlist in the Israeli army one day.
Despite everything, Miriam strongly defends her son’s name:
“Why should I have regrets?” Miriam fired back without hesitation. “Yitzhak [Isaac] was a prophet for both Jews and Muslims. And Rabin? [Most] Jordanians want peace. So why should I regret it?”
Try to imagine being in Miriam’s shoes back in the late 1990s. Would you have changed your young son’s name, to protect your family? Or would you have kept the name, despite the dangers?
“Jordanian allowed to name son after Yitzhak Rabin.” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 25 Mar. 1996: 5A.
“Rabin lives – in Jordan.” Jerusalem Post 18 Feb. 1996.
In mid-1991, country music singer Paulette Carlson asked fans to help her name her baby:
She has invited fans to stop by her booth at the annual Fan Fair music festival in Nashville, Tenn., from June 10 to June 14, and submit names. The winning entrant will receive a picnic basket with treats.
Was the winning suggestion really used as the baby’s name?
According to country music site RolandNote.com, on July 10, 1991, “Paulette Carlson and husband Randy Smith have a daughter, Cali Gabriel Smith, in Anchorage, Alaska. The baby was named during a contest at Fan Fair.”
Paulette’s website confirms that the baby was a girl, and named Cali. It doesn’t mention the Fan Fair, though.
Source: “Paulette Carlson.” Star-News [Wilmington, NC] 30 May 1991: 2A.
In 1994, the Welsh rugby team traveled to the South Pacific, competed against Manu Samoa, and lost. According to the BBC, “[T]he men in red simply could not deal with the power and pace of the islanders, nor the stifling heat, as they slipped from 14-9 down at the break to a crushing 34-9 defeat.”
Soon after, the rugby game got a namesake. A baby boy born during the game was named “Wales Manu Samoa 9-34 Moamoa” — from the names of the teams, the final score, and the game’s location. The baby’s grandmother, Sia Gale, recently explained:
While we were cheering the Manu v Wales at Moamoa field, my [late] daughter-in-law (Talaleu Papalii) gave birth to a boy.
My son (Kirk Faatupuloto Gale) called us and relayed the good news after the game, so I automatically told him to name my first grandson after the Manu Samoa v Wales game.
So my grandson’s name is Wales Manu Samoa 9-34 Moamoa Gale.
Sia also explained why she put the Welsh team first: “Manusamoa is a title from a village in Upolu, so I put Wales first and then Manu Samoa.”
According to the Samoa Rugby Union website, “[t]he origin of the name Manu Samoa is surrounded by a veil of myth and legend,” but many believe it was “the name of a famous Samoan chief some 10 generations ago.”
(Also, the word manu happens to mean “bird” in Samoan.)