Word of the Week

Riitta Suominen   

The word of the week is Hebrew.

I was in Israel last week. Luckily, the signs were not just in Hebrew. I wouldn't have survived well with my loanword vocabulary: amen, bagel, cider, hallelujah, kibbutz, klezmer, kosher.

However, different writing systems and variable transcripts caused headaches while driving. The Finnish conventionalised names used in the Bible were often difficult to combine with local names.

Jerusalem was Yerushalayim in Hebrew and Al-Quds in Arabic.

Jesus' hometown Nazareth, where 70% of the population are Arabs, is called An-Nāşirah in Arabic and Nazerat in Hebrew.

Abraham's residence Beersheba is written in the form of Be’ér-Sheva in Hebrew and Bi'r as-Saba' in Arabic.

The town name Jaffa, which is very familiar to Finns, is spelled on signs Yafo in Hebrew and Yāffā in Arabic.

The general confusion – in addition to the chaotic traffic – is increased by the fact that there are several different spellings on the signs along above mentioned. So, if you go to Israel for a roadtrip, I only wish you mazel tov ’good luck’.

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