The Heat Of Summer – In Hebrew
Dr. Jeremy Benstein, HATC Senior Consultant
In Israel, we take our vacations very seriously. Even a short respite from work or school here is called a chufsha, from the root ch-f-sh, meaning “freedom” or “liberty.” We don’t just vacation, we escape bondage! Even more dramatically, the two-month summer break from school, which we are currently in the thick of, is called hachofesh hagadol – “The Great Freedom.”
We devote most of this chofesh, an alternative word for “vacation,” to finding ways to beat the “heat,” chom. When there’s a heat wave – gal chom – we look for galim, waves of a different sort down at the chof, “beach” (unrelated to the word for vacation).
Jerusalem, the holy city, ‘ir hakodesh, is landlocked and surrounded by hills. But coastal Tel Aviv has many beautiful beaches, making it the preeminent ‘ir shel chol – meaning both “city of sand” but also “secular city” (chol from chullin, means “secular” or “profane,” while another chol means “sand”).
The words for hot and cold have parallel forms. “Hot” is cham, “warm” is chamim and “heating” is chimum. “Cold” is kar, “cool” is karir, and “cooling” is kirur. You may be chilling drinks in the mekarer, the refrigerator. But when you drink them, please go easy on the environment, and don’t use cups made of that light-cooling stuff – kal, light, fluffy + kar, cold = kalkar, “styrofoam.”
Struggling to find time for a drink? Maybe the kids would enjoy some time at camp. There are two words for camp in Israel. “Overnight camp” – often organized by a youth movement – is a machaneh, also the word for a military encampment.
The root, ch-n-h, also gives us the contemporary word for ‘park’ – not the type where you would go camping, but what you do with your car, lehachnot, “to park,” and chanayah, “parking.” And what do you call going camping in Hebrew? La’asot kemping, of course. Go figure.
The other word for “camp,” usually used for the day camp variety, is kaytana. Since day camp is usually for small children, I used to assume the word had something to do with katan, “small.” But it turns out it’s from the Aramaic word for “summer,” kayta – kayitz in Hebrew – which also gives us kayit, a “recreational holiday.”
If you can’t ship your kids off to camp, you can all go for a dip at the pool. A pool is a bereicha, and while there probably is no linguistic connection, you may feel that on these long days in this ‘Great Freedom,’ the chofesh hagadol, there is no greater blessing, beracha, than that.