Most residents called it Efrat, but the government called it "Efrata". Some signs said, "Efrat," and some said, "Efrata."
Places in Israel are very often named after their ancient location in the Bible. Efrat, with a population of more than 1500 families, is about to celebrate its 30th anniversary. It stands next to Bethlehem, where the Matriarch Rachel was buried. It is the place where King David shepherded his sheep, where Ruth gleaned her barley in the field of Boaz.
The first reference to Efrat is in book of Genesis, 35:19, "And Rachel died, and was buried on the road to Efrat, which is Bethlehem." The Hebrew words "on the road to Efrat" is "derech Efrata". The "a" means "toward" in Hebrew.
But there are debates by people who understand grammar, and those who understand the Tanach (the Bible), and those who have different opinions in every direction. Did Rachel die on the road to Efrat or on the road to Efrata? I don't know.
In the book of Ruth 4:11, there's no mention of going "to" anywhere, and yet we read, "...May you prosper in Efrata and be famous in Bethlehem."
Plus, in Psalms 132:6, we read, "Behold, we heard it in Efrata..."
So, where have I lived for the past 20 years? Well, if you looked at road signs, I lived in Efrata. But if you asked me, I lived in Efrat.
Finally, the debate is over. Israel's State Commission on Names has decided recently that the official name of my soon-to-be-city is "Efrat".
Hooray, now I know where I am - Efrat, the capital of Gush Etzion, the heart of Judea, the home of our forefathers and our great-grandchildren, IY"H.
Efrat - a town of chesed (loving kindness) that is connected to our Jewish heritage and history, no matter how you spell its name - Efrat!!