What does it mean?

December 14, 2006

Learn to read Hebrew

A friend of mine just asked me for a good link for learning to read Hebrew. Well, here's a good link. But if it were up to me, I'd provide some context which would both help learn to read, and teach you something about the language. So, maybe I'll do it.

I think I've already covered vowel points about as well as I can, so go look at that post for vowels and I'll skip to consonants. 

There are 22 consonants in Hebrew five of them have final forms, and three of them (in Modern Hebrew) have a stop and fricative pronunciation. All 22 Hebrew consonants have graphic cognates in Arabic. (Phonetic cognates can be found here.) All Hebrew and Arabic letters have numerical values - which are the same for both! In tabular form:

Name Letter Final form Transcription Arabic cognate Numerical value Comments
Alef א   ' ا 1 glottal stop
Bet ב   b, v ب 2 "v" after a vowel except when doubled, otherwise "b"
Gimel ג   g ج 3 used to have a fricative form "gh"
Dalet ד   d د 4 used to have a fricative form "dh"
He ה   h 5  
Vav ו   v و 6 used to be "w"
Zayin ז   z ز 7  
Het ח   h ح 8 voiceless pharyngeal
Tet ט   t ط 9 emphatic "t"
Yud י   y ي 10  
Kaf כ ך k, kh ك 20 "kh" after a vowel except when doubled, otherwise "k"
Lamed ל   l ل 30  
Mem מ ם m م 40  
Nun נ ן n ن 50  
Samekh ס   s س 60  
`Ayin ע   ` ع 70 voiced pharyngeal
Pe פ פ p, f ف 80 "f" after a vowel except when doubled, otherwise "p"
Sadi צ ץ s ص 90 used to be emphatic "s", now "ts"
Quf ק q ق 100 uvular stop
Resh ר   r ر 200  
Shin, Sin ש   sh, s ش 300 "s" used to be a voiceless lateral fricative, in pointed script "sh" is distinguished by a point above the upper-right corner, "s" by a point above the upper-left
Tav ת   t ت 400 used to have a fricative form "th"

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December 13, 2006

Where breakthoughs happen

An interesting promotional video for Israel. Of course, it is an advertisement, but everything in it is true. My only (mild) criticism is that it focuses too much on big, international companies. Israel is not Finland or Switzerland, playgrounds for mega-high-tech. What distinguishes it is the vibrancy of its entrepreneurship. In any case, go watch the video!

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December 06, 2006

The Israeli economic "miracle"

We can thank Netanyahu's much-vilified reforms for this:

It is also becoming clear that Israel's economy is growing faster than all Western economies. Even the war did not slow the pace. The mirror of growth is employment, which has improved greatly. A total of 240,000 Israelis joined the workforce in the past three years, supporting themselves instead of relying on government handouts - and that is the most important news for society. The unemployment rate has dropped to its lowest level in a decade, to 8.3 percent of the workforce compared to 10.7 percent in 2003. The number of people receiving unemployment payments fell from 97,000 in 2003 to 57,000, and the number receiving income support decreased from 155,000 to 140,000 in the same period.

Even the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange is doing the unexpected. In defiance of all the prophets of economic doom, it has jumped by 22 percent since the end of the war, to record heights. And as the stock market sees the face of the future, it apparently envisions greatness ahead.

Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer recently joined the party, cutting interest rates to below the U.S. rate: 5 percent, compared to 5.25 in the U.S. And instead of an immediate devaluation, the shekel actually rose in response.

Will the economics textbooks need to be revised? Apparently not. There is a single explanation for all the good things described here: A responsible, free-market economic policy expressed through budgetary restraint, a small deficit, tax cuts, reforms, privatization and opening the economy to the free movement of goods, services and capital, or in short: Less government, more business.

UPDATE: Netanyahu has a new web site, with a blog. And don't miss this video.

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December 03, 2006

It is possible to annihilate the Jewish people

Caroline Glick (via Solomonia, my transcription): 

I found, when I was here in 1998 through 2000 after having been in Israel for seven years, I found it disturbing in many ways to see how Holocaust memorials were springing up like mushrooms after the rainfall everywhere in the United States of America. You walk down the dock in Boston, and you think you're going to go a fish restaurant, the next thing you know you're standing in a Holocaust memorial. Why? Because. And it became this fashion among American Jewry I think in the 1990's to put up Holocaust memorials everywhere, and we keep saying "never again". We keep saying "never again". And I wonder when I look what's happening today in the world and I see the response of American Jewry whether we ever stop to think what we mean by "never again". Never again to what? What is the lesson of the Holocaust? As far as I can tell the lesson that the Jews should be taking from the Holocaust is that it is quite possible to kill all of us. That is what we should be learning. Without too much objections from too many people it is quite possible to commit genocide against the Jewish people. There may be other lessons from the Holocaust but I think that as a Jewish person, the main lesson that we should be taking away is that it is possible for this to happen. Not that is was possible but that it is possible for this to happen...

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An Israeli view of Borat

Borat looks different to an Israeli audience than it does to any other, for a number of reasons. Here's one Israeli review:

I had heard that Sacha Baron Cohen - he of the grandmother in Haifa and the youth education trips from the UK to the Holy Land - mixed in a fair amount of Hebrew with his faux Kazakh in his box-office hit mockumentary Borat. I'd seen a clip of the movie's opening few minutes on YouTube, where he promises a one-armed neighbor (the genuinely disabled Nicu Tudorache) in his home Kazakh village of Kuzcek (actually Glod in Romania), in Hebrew, that he'll return from the United States with a new arm.

But I wasn't prepared for the fact that just about every "Kazakh" sentence Borat Sagdiyev utters in the entire movie is Hebrew - near-accentless, flawless, slang-filled modern Hebrew. My fellow Jerusalem audience members loved every word of it, heaving hysterically at each idiomatic pearl. 


BARON COHEN is a comedian - bright, inventive and intrepid. Depending on how much of the Borat footage was genuine and how much was scripted, he is also brave. It requires real guts to take the microphone at center field and tell a vast crowd at a Virginia rodeo that he supports their president's war of terror, run with that "joke" to bloodcurdling extremes and top off the performance by remaking the US national anthem as a paean of praise for Kazakhstan and of derision for all other nations. It requires real guts of a different kind to prance around before a global audience in that screaming green excuse for a swimsuit.

But the jokester who would prevent another Holocaust wimped out, nonetheless. Easy to play for fools an Evangelical Christian audience, swaying and clapping wildly in the grip of religious passion. But think of the truly needed alarms Baron Cohen might have set off for his audiences had he tried the same stunt in a mosque.

Read the whole thing.

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