Thursday, July 17, 2008


I started ulpan last week. It rocks. It's two mornings a week, for an hour and a half, in the teacher's home; there are currently four students, all religious women, and the focus of the class is the practical Hebrew we all need to know. How to decode your arnona bill; what's in that note home from the teacher; reading supermarket shelves. Yesterday she brought an mp3 of paying her gas bill by phone and we listened to it with a vocabulary list. Awesome.

I have been repeatedly confirming my belief that there is no such thing as a useless word. Some are more useful than others, obviously, but you'll need 'em all eventually. To wit: my current favorite reading matter is The First Thousand Words in Hebrew. On the back cover, there's part of the page that covers "the garden," with some of the words I am less likely to need. Why didn't they put "the kitchen," or "the school"? No, it was "the garden," with words like "rake," "bird's nest," "tire," and "ladder." This is the page I find myself seeing again and again when the book is sitting next to me while I'm doing something else. "Ladder?!" I remember grousing to myself. "When am I going to next need to say that?"

Second day here, that's when--when I rolled my double stroller into the makolet, picked up a bag of pita, turned around (in a 9-point turn at least) and found that in those thirty seconds, a man with, you guessed it, a ladder had appeared behind me, climbed the ladder, disappeared through the canopy, and, basing a guess on my view of his knees, started repairing the top of the awning. I was stuck.

"Excuse me?" I called up through the canvas.


"Excuse me, sir? I cannot go."


"Sir! Your ladder! Your ladder is in my way and I cannot go!"

Instantly, his head popped back into sight.

"Oh! I'm sorry!" And he came down the ladder, folded it, and moved it so I could go.

And yesterday, I found out the word for "pound key," as in, "enter the number of your gas bill and press the pound key." Guess what it is? "Sulamit"--literally, "little ladder." Natch.

I've been trying hard to read and decode as much Hebrew as I can. Today, on the way up our street coming back from the evening park run, I saw a sign affixed to a gate, next to a huge tree loaded with brilliant magenta flowers that spilled over the fence and down to the sidewalk. I stopped and studied it for a minute and realized what it said (Deb, you will like this):

During the year of shmitta all flowers are ownerless.
Help yourself.


Anonymous said...

Oh, "little ladder" is so much more elegant than "pound sign" or "octothorp." I like Hebrew already!

Deborah said...

Oh, I do like it!
This implies that all the flower gardens go without care for the year also?