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Israelispeak

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Israelispeak is the way Israelis and the Israeli media use language: Behind the literal meaning of the Hebrew words, there’s an additional web of suggestion, doublespeak, and cultural innuendo that too often gets lost in translation. Every Friday in The Scroll, we reveal what is really being said.

This week: Study the terms below, then take our quiz! We told you there’d be a test on this.

Shoshana Kordova is an editor and translator at the English edition of Haaretz. She grew up in New Jersey and has been living in Israel since 2001.

aharei hahagim: after the holidays.אחרי החגים
Israel’s month-long excuse for getting nothing done—other than shopping for chicken and pomegranates.

Atzmaut: Independence.עצמאות
Political party names need abstract nouns.

Filipinit: Filipino caregivers.פיליפינית
For the Christmas spirit, Israelis look to their Filipino caregivers.

hahayal hehatuf: a kidnapped or abducted soldier.החייל החטוף
Was Gilad Shalit, probably Israel’s best-known soldier in captivity, kidnapped or abducted?

hashed ha’adati: the ethnic genie.השד העדתי
A tragedy in Israel lets the ‘ethnic genie’ out of the bottle.

hatzharat ne’emanut: declaration of loyalty.הצהרת נאמנות
The oath of loyalty contains the Hebrew root that also appears in the word emunah, meaning belief, faith, trust, or confidence, often in a religious context.

hithardut: haredization.התחרדות
In Israel, gentrification is about religion, not class.

hitnahlut: settlement.התנחלות
Israelis have a hard time settling differences, let alone settlements.

motzei Shabbat: after Shabbat.מוצאי שבת
All good things must come to an end.

Oferet Yetzuka: Cast lead.עופרת יצוקה
What the Gaza operation and dreidels have in common.

plitim: refugees.פליטים
Hebrew’s focus on how people become refugees—the push factor of being unable to remain rather than the pull factor of seeking safe harbor—may hint at Israeli willingness to tolerate foreigners.

politi: political.פוליטי
In Israel, politics is not politics as usual.

shvita: strike.שביתה
Is organized labor protest divinely ordained?

tahalich medini: political process, specifically the Mideast peace process.תהליך מדיני
Headline: “Interior Minister: Palestinians Incapable of Moving Political Process Forward.”

ziyun: arming.זיון
The noun ziyun, meaning “arming” or “provision of weapons,” is also a coarse word for sex.

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Hershel (Heshy) Ginsburg says:

As would be expected from a Ha’aretz editor, the most quintessential Israeli political term was omitted — the Etrog. The term originated with Channel 2 commentator Amnon Abramovitch to refer to politicians (most notably Ariel Sharon at the time of the Gaza disengagement) who because they pursued policies favored by the left-wing journalist elite (like A.A.), are shielded (much like an etrog) from press inquiries into suspicions of corruption and other government wrong doing (the concept actually preceded the term by many years, but that is a different story).

Ha’aretz senior journalists and editors openly admitted (often with pride and / or with the tone of this being a “no-brainer”) that they Etrogized favored politicians. Some even went so far as to publish specific policy criteria that a politician would have to to meet to merit the coveted status of an Etrog.

The term has also come to be used to describe favored politicians that are not asked tough policy questions or questions about their judgment (outside of petty politics, which abounds in Israel’s parliamentary / coalition democracy). Prime examples of these kind of Etrogim are Shimon Peres, Yossi Beilin, and Tzippy Livni when she was competing for being the head of the Kadima list.

A useful term & concept.

aharei hahagim:is an expression that is used very often in Israel in every-day commerce. People begin 2-3 weeks before the holidays, to use it as an excuse and postpone everything (specially payments!)

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Israelispeak

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