Here's a bit of background on the name of our town, from Yossi Baumol.
For you newcomers - a little background.
In the mid seventies, when the idea of building our town first came up, the plan was originally referred to as Alon Shvut Bet. Moshko - Moshe Moshkowitz (the survivor of Gush Etzion who served as Interior Minister Yosef Burg's right hand man and became the first Mayor of Efrat) was the driving force behind setting up a large town east of Route 60, pushed for the name Efrat and used it extensively in all his publications. Despite the fact that we all got used to the name Efrat, in the late seventies, when the first concrete steps were taken towards setting Efrat up, the Government Committee for Names wanted to name our town "Breichot" because it was planned to stretch from Breichot Shlomo in the north, southward to Hirbat Brechot (an old tel between Givat Rimon and Migdal Oz dating back to at least the early middle ages). They rejected the idea of calling our town "Efrat", because according to them "Efrat" is just another name for the town of Beit Lechem as it says "B'Derech Efrat - hee Beit Lachem". They compromised by allowing the large urban settlement closest to Beit Lechem to be called "Efrata" , which meant according to their view "near Beit Lechem".
A number of the first residents protested this interpetation. (I'm not sure that I still have my article on the topic from the first Efraton). First of all, the modern town of Arad was a full 10 kilometers away from Tel Arad and nobody suggested calling it "Arada"!
In addition, we claimed that both names Efrat and Efrata interchangeably refer to a both a large extended family within the Tribe of Judah (in fact - it's the last name of the royal family!) and their corresponding larger area of settlement within the estate of Judah including, but not limited to, Beit Lechem. The name itself stems from Efrat, wife of Kalev. A few of the arguments were as follows:
- Megillat Rut opens with "...Efratiim m'Beit Lechem". If the official position were correct, this statement would be redundant - much in the same way we would view the statement "Jerusalemites from Jerusalem".
- In Divrei HaYamim A, 2:24 we read that Chetzron died in a town named "Kalev, Efrata" - after Kalev & Efrat - apparently a town within a province called Efrata - on the measure of "Brooklyn, New York".
During the heady days of demonstrating and settling in Givat HaDagan, we discovered an even more convincing argument. In Masechet Zevachim 54b, the Gemara tells us that King David wanted to build the Temple on a hill higher than Mt. Moriah at "Ein Eitam". Ein Eitam is the spring that feeds Solomon's Pools which emerges from the northern slope of Givat HaDagan. We must conclude that the crown of Givat Hadagan (which now hosts 2 tall antennae) is where the Temple would have stood. See the Gemara there for the 2 reasons why he didn't build it there in the end. What is interesting is that the Gemara sums up the intention of King David to build the Temple on Givat HaDagan with the passage from Tehillim "I heard it in Efrata, I found it in the forest field" (Tehillim 132:6). As we used to say in Yeshiva - "Ah B'feirusha Gemara" - a clear Talmudic proof that Givat HaDagan was part of Efrat - a term which could not refer to just Beit Lechem.
May we be zoche to spread out and settle all of the land of Efrat and bring the geula, as is indicated in another nice source on the name Efrat from the Ari HaKadosh in "Tzaddik Yesod Olam": "Efrat is from the word (Pri) fruit - that they should extend themselves (be fruitful) so that the Monarchy may come to take its proper form, as it says "Efratim from Beit Lechem Yehuda". See also Michah 4:8 and 5:1 as well as Targum Yonatan Ben Uziel on Breshit 35:21 for the role of our area in the Geula.