Sunday, November 5, 2017

Israel: home of 'world's most inventive translations'?

Israel is a wonderful place. It's the world's only Jewish country--and it's unique for that reason.

The land is beautiful. Farm produce is deliciously diverse. The  business climate seems to burst with invention. The people are truly 'Sabra'--prickly on the outside, sweet inside.

Of course, for many who have visited Israel, all this is old news. These intrepid travelers know by experience that Israel is the land of the Jewish cab driver (Hey! look where you're driving!) and the Safardi (Jew of Middle Eastern ancestry) Shuk (open market) seller (I'll give it to you for a discount, but only because I like you). 

Travelers know all about the Jewish Israel.

But there may be something these travelers don't know: Israel may be the world's most inventive translator. 

As proof of Israel's excellence in this field, I offer two examples. The first is fairly simple to enjoy, I think. It's the second example that could win the ultimate trophy-of-excellence.

Both examples come from a local (Israel) community 'Chat Board' we like to refer to as the MAchat community board. It as place where Anglo residents of our town, Maale Adumim, can share info, ask for information, advertise and share practical ideas for living in Israel. This community board is managed by our own Jacob Richman, who has already published more than 34,000 individual posts for us (as of November 4, 2017). Our Anglo community here is the richer because of what he does for us.

Of today's two translation examples, this first one seems the simplest to experience. That is, if you see it, you won't get a correct translation of the Hebrew words on the sign. But you'd certainly get the message:

(picture by Naomi, posted by Jacob Richman at,  page number 16,600, November 4, 2017), 

This sign above is meant to warn you. An exact translation would read, 'Danger! open pit' (on the sign, the three-letter Hebrew word would be pronounced, 'boar'; 'boar' in Hebrew means 'pit'). 

I'd say the sign delivers that warning, albeit imperfectly. If you find this sign in this setting, I think you'd understand its meaning.

This next example is very different. It's not in the same league as the one above.

This second sign is one you'd see posted on a highway as you drive perhaps 50-60 mph. Because of your speed, you'd have just a few seconds to read it--and figure it out. 

Put yourself in that position. You're driving on a highway at perhaps 55 mph. You come up to this sign. In an instant, it's gone, passing behind you in a flash . What does this sign tell you? 

(picture by Ashley Coleman, posted by Jacob Richman,, May 16, 2017)

If you can't understand the Hebrew on the sign, what are you to make of it as you hurtle down the road? Have you just entered a part of Israel where jobs are easy to get? Or, does the sign carry a different meaning?
The proper translation of the Hebrew on this sign is something like, 'Workers ahead. Go slow'; or, alternatively, 'Workmen ahead. drive slowly'.

Ah, Israel. It's a land which, even as it's demonized by Jew-hate, rises above all other nations to demonstrate what 'invention' really means.

It's true. Many around the world want to destroy us. At best, they want us to go away. But we aren't going anywhere. We ignore the hate. Instead, we invent our own world. We even invent our translations. 

Israel is a place where imagination takes us to our future. 
If you don't understand that, you really haven't spent enough time driving on our roads.

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