Monday, November 23, 2009

Swirling Thoughts #86 – little known facts – or maybe just some stuff you wouldn’t have occasion to contemplate

East 3rd Street or Zerubavel?
My driveway in Israel gets blocked by carpooling gan mothers and cement delivery trucks – not quite as often as my East 3rd Street driveway got blocked by Kings Highway shoppers and diners – but often. I sent Bob out today to speak with the construction site shomer (watchman) about the cement truck about to block our driveway. They spoke. And yelled and cursed. In multiple languages – Hebrew, English, Arabic and Russian! Like East 3rd Street! Except that they reached an agreement. Which is good because the shomer was carrying an M16.

I never thought about being illiterate and having an accent
When you make aliyah to Israel as an adult, no matter how long you are here, you retain an accent which identifies you as an immigrant. Think about any immigrant family you know. My father-in-law has been in America for more of his life than anywhere else but his accent gives him away in an instant. But when you make aliyah, your children grow up speaking your native tongue like natives – in my case that will be English like Americans – and they will also speak Hebrew like Israelis. I pick up trempers (hitchhikers) all the time and I ask them in Hebrew where they are going. And they answer in Hebrew. Once they are in the car, I ask them more specifically but I tend to ask them in English. Half the time they answer me in California or New York English. “You’re from the States?” I will ask. “No – my parents are,” they will invariably answer. And so goes the second generation. These kids then get married, often to a non-Anglo, speak only Hebrew with their spouse and raise children who do not speak English at all or who speak broken English with an Israeli accent. Woah. I’d better get back to ulpan so I can speak to my grandkids.

This is way better than the new Target
If you wake up one morning with a pulling desire to daven at Kever Rachel (Rachel’s Tomb in Bet Lehem) – like I did the morning I went into labor with my own Rachel Merav – you can. You do not need a tour guide. You do not need a bullet proof bus. You just get in your car and drive there. You say hello to the cute soldiers who will then open the gate for you, you drive in to a parking lot that is free of charge and full of available spots. You park and walk less than 100 meters into the building that houses Kever Rachel. If you are coming from my house in Efrat it will take you 12 – 15 minutes to get there. Assuming no one is blocking your driveway.

Rachel Merav
So the big question lurking is about my daughter’s name. I recently met a woman here who had a baby and didn’t know what to name him. It was a free name but they were out of ideas. So she and her husband went through the phone book. They got to Akiva and loved it. End of story. But not exactly. When Akiva got to gan there was a party at which parents and children sat together in a circle and went around telling the origins of each child’s name. In a pinch, a story about Rabbi Akiva was concocted and the ganenet (gan teacher) was none the wiser.

It’s not always 100% spiritual – sometimes it’s just practical!
So we named her Rachel as in Rachel Imeinu, buried in Bet Lehem, on the way to Efrata – there are tons of biblical and local reasons to have named her Rachel. Of course the fact that Rachel can be pronounced by Americans and Israelis tipped the scales considerably…

Merav was a daughter of King Saul. He intended to marry her off to King David and then have her influence King David to come into danger. According to most, the marriage did not go through. Perhaps Merav was an independent minded woman. A nice quality in a namesake.

And then there’s the Hebrew word ‘merav’ which means, roughly, “to increase”. Certainly our blessing has been increased by the arrival of our Merav. And we certainly hope for increased blessing in our new homeland.

So now I’m covered with two possible stories in the event of a gan party.

The real deal – significantly less glamorous – on the order of a phone book name
I once picked up a tremper who I thought was Israeli but then answered me in perfect English. Her parents had made aliyah. She was very nice and we spoke the whole way to Jerusalem. She told me her name and I really liked it. It was Merav.


  1. A perfect and beautiful name for your beautiful Sabra!

  2. Merav's sister married David - she was Michal, and she was likewise an independant minded woman (she was punished for berating her husband inappropriately)- draw your own conclusions about her namesakes........absolutely love love love her name - a beautiful name for a beautiful baby! ps - maybe dont pick up too many trempers?

  3. It's a beautiful name! Mazel Tov!