Words that made my jaw drop

How many fetuses is too many?
I phoned my gynecologist this morning to make an appointment for a routine checkup. When I told the secretary I wanted to make an appointment, she did not bother with any preliminaries but asked briskly, “How many fetuses?”

That’s a question she would do better to ask my daughter-in-law.

Star-gazers and zodiac-worshipers
In my search last week for a sufficiently kosher restaurant for the meeting of a group of colleagues in Jerusalem, I came across a site that warned about a particular restaurant that claimed to be strictly kosher. The site stated that acum start work there in the morning before the kashrut supervisor arrives.

Acum is a Hebrew acronym for ovdei cochavim umazalot (worshipers of stars and zodiac signs)—idolators, in short. I doubt that we have many such star-gazers in Jerusalem, though I have seen a young woman (probably a migrant worker) singing hymns to the rising sun.

The site was obviously referring to Palestinian workers, who are almost certainly Muslims. Israeli PR keeps referring to Jerusalem as sacred to the “three monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.” In terms of kashrut, then, it seems that the real objection is not to the possibility that the workers are idolators, but rather that they are non-Jews. Why not say so?

When the ball is in your court
Any English-language journalist in Israel can tell you that the lowest court in the country is the magistrates court. That must be a consequence of the 31-year British Mandate in Palestine.

Yet the Hebrew name for the lowest court is, literally, court of peace. And so it appears, in translation, on a directional sign in the Russian Compound in the city center. That name may be a holdover from the Ottoman period, which lasted until 1917, because Turkey, like some other countries, does have courts of peace.

It makes one wonder whether the higher courts are any less dedicated to seeking peace between litigants than the lowest court.

Israeli diva takes back seat to Azeri duo in song contest
Dana International—winner of the 1998 Eurovision pop song contest with her song “Diva”—made another pitch for the title this year in Düsseldorf, this time unsuccessfully. The flamboyant Israeli singer, whose sex reassignment surgery was the object of intense media interest after her 1998 win, has been involved with the contest since 1995, when she came in second in the Israeli pre-selection.

Israel has won the contest three times: in 1978 (“Abanibi”), 1979 “Hallelujah”), and 1998 (“Diva”). This information should be useful when you place your bet for the winner in next year’s contest. The final competition has some 125 million viewers each year.

Azerbaijan, represented by the duo Eldar and Nigar (also known as Eli and Nikki), was this year’s winner and this was the first win for a country in the Caucasus. Next year’s finals will probably be held in Baku.

Text copyright 2011 by Esther Hecht. No part of the text may be used without written permission of the author.


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3 Responses to “Words that made my jaw drop”

  1. David Says:

    If I remember correctly, there is a phrase – ein mazal l’Yahudim – meaning that they are outside the mechanical controls of the universe.

    Could that be what the ‘acum’ acronym is getting at?

    As for the ‘hidden’ comment on the website, I agree – that’s a pity – anything like that, that distances people – is a pity.

    • estherhecht Says:

      I think that “ein mazal layehudim” simply means that Jews have no luck. I don’t think it’s a reference to mechanical (or other) controls of the universe. I don’t see a connection between that and acum. And speaking of the zodiac, as you undoubtedly know it appears in ancient mosaic floors of synagogues in Israel. I even saw the signs of the zodiac painted on the ceiling of a modern-era synagogue in Kishinev.

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