Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Swirling Thoughts #133 – some words simply do not translate

It really does get less overwhelming over time.

You learn to distinguish a machsom from a rahmzohr from a kikar when people are giving you directions. Only one involves armed soldiers. It took me a while to distinguish sound-alike words that have nothing to do with each other. Machsom, machsahn, michlat, mitpachat. I often ask Bob to bring the folding table out from the security checkpoint.

I’m still trying to figure out the different occasions I am invited to – for Chanukah there was a mesibah at Rosie’s gan. I’m not sure but I think it was a party. I mean, I was there. We did crafts, sang songs, and ate jelly donuts. It felt party-ish.

For Yom Hatzmaut (Israeli Independence Day) there is a tekkes. Ask any English speaking kid who’s lived here a while to define tekkes and it will take them a good while and some prompting. And then you still won’t have a definition that doesn’t include the word. “It’s, you know, a tekkes!” The closest answer I have so far is ‘assembly that’s like a show and like a party’. Okay…

I happened to be in school on Yom Hazikaron (Memorial Day). This day (one day before Yom Hatzmaut) has nothing to do with sales, shopping or great lease deals and everything to do with remembering fallen soldiers and victims of terror. Restaurants are closed, stores close early, television shows do not run and you can be sure there will be a tekkes. In fact, when the electricity went out for 10 minutes during my visit to the school, all you could hear was, “Miskanim! B’Emseh ha Tekkes!” (Poor things! In the middle of the Tekkes!). Hmmm…

Later that night
As I sat in the park with several thousand of my neighbors I saw for myself what the Yom Hatzmaut tekkes was. There were speeches, honors, a torch-lighting ceremony, a performance with flags, singing and dancing. At the end were fireworks. I don’t know if there is an English word for tekkes. Even if there were, would it capture the essence of the tekkes? My good friend Claudia was honored and lit a torch. Becky’s friends were up there dancing. My friend’s son was up there performing with a flag. It wasn’t just entertainment. It was a celebration and it was personal. For thousands of us.

Glossery of terms
Machsom – security checkpoint
Rahmzohr – traffic light
Kikar – traffic circle
Machsahn – shed
Michlat – bomb shelter room
Mitpachat – scarf for a woman’s head
Mesibah – party, as in the thing you are invited to at Chanukah in your child’s gan - I think
Tekkes – assembly that’s like a show and like a party - but really it's something more


  1. tekes = ceremony

  2. I love this post! I was just thinking about writing a blog post about similar-sounding words. I have some embarrassing stories to share. :)

    I agree that a tekkes is a ceremony, but it's also more... I don't know that there's a perfect translation.