Gleanings from a Hebrew→English Translator’s Notes (1): On the Indefinite Article / with an intro, “ah, serendipitty! …”


ah, serendipitty! Looking through the files&folders directory on my hard disk that Jonathan rescued for me, bless him, i realized i have some other gleanings to do beside my collatings of memorings. So here’s the first of these… oh, & in the title pic I just made I added an additional [in fact the basic] meaning of the Hebrew word bayit – house; & this ambiguity too is interesting: in Hebrew the Temple is called the Bayit, the “House” (& the First Temple and Second Temple are called Bayit Rishon and Bayit Sheni, & present-day fomenters are planning a “Third Temple”, Bayit Shlishi). Not that my original translation was wrong, but it was inadequate: for most Hebrew readers the last words of Yehuda Amihai ’s wise & moving poem will be read first of all as “the House that was destroyed”, but for some the simpler meaning with its more comprehensive range will seep in as well. & i must add that I wasn’t expecting to write all this when I added ‘or simply: the house – & having written that, I realize I should add that bayit also means ‘home’ (you couldn’t translate into Hebrew the truth that “a house is not a home”), and that the country the Zionists have expropriated is also called the bayit [home] of the “Jewish people”, so that too is a meaning of this word in Amihai’s “the bayit that was destroyed”…

So here’s the first gleaning:

a blessing and a curse
a shame and a disgrace
a majority and a minority (or several minorities)
a history and a geography
a vision and a way
a hegemony and a plurality

it is most difficult to explain the uses of the indefinite article, especially when used with “abstract nouns”, to people who do not use indefinite articles as part of their everyday speaking and thinking.

blessing and curse are words for alternative options, but any particular event can be interpreted as both a blessing and a curse, or as a blessing or a curse, and in English you could not say this without using the indefinite article; in Hebrew you can only say
ברכה וכללה to refer to either a particular case or a philosophical opposition…

shame and disgrace are almost synonyms, and can be discussed generally as emotions or consequences of certain acts, but in any particular case one will say not that
”this is shame and disgrace”, but “this is a shame and a disgrace”.
again, in Hebrew you will say בושה וחרפה for both options.

history and geography are general ideas; you can study history and/or geography, but any particular place/time will have a history or even many histories) and a geography

there is vision (a faculty, sight, or the capacity to envisage a future) and there are visions, but when someone has a particular vision, we will speak of a vision; the word way cannot be used in a way that makes sense without either an article (indefinite or definite) or some other word before it as in “make way” (which in any case is short for “make a way”. Ben-Gurion. wrote a book called חזון ודרך, a title that I found on the Internet has been translated in 2 different ways, one Vision and Way, by someone who obviously doesn’t have the understanding I’m talking about here, because the book is not about vision, but about a vision that Ben-Gurion is propounding, or about “way”, which by itself makes no sense at all; the correct translation, which I also found there, is: A Vision and a Way.

so, as seen in all the examples above, when referring to a particular case, or using “abstract nouns” to present descriptions, be they alternative or synonymous or simply accumulative, we need to use the indefinite article. After (and only after) using it to describe a situation we can then particularize it further, using the definite article “the blessing was that x happened; the curse was that y happened”; “the history of X is complex, and the geography is very varied”.


Nitza’s exhibition of Paper Sculptures opens in Abu Ghosh tomorrow

With love & best wishes I’ve translated the text Nitza wrote in Hebrew for the flyer, & inserted it over the original, which appeared on Facebook today, & I’m pasting both below:

abughosh engl page

& the original:

abu ghosh hebpage


Mahmoud Darwish محمود درويش מחמוד דרוויש: Two strophes آيتين שני בתים


English, Arabic, Hebrew below:

O you who pass between fleeting words
From you the sword — from us the blood
From you steel and fire — from us our flesh
From you yet another tank — from us stones
From you tear gas — from us rain
Above us, as above you, are sky and air
So take your share of our blood — and be gone
Go to a dance party — and be gone
As for us, we have to water the martyrs’ flowers
As for us, we have to live as we see fit.

O you who pass between fleeting words
As bitter dust, go where you wish, but
Do not pass between us like flying insects
For we have work to do in our land:
We have wheat to grow which we water with our bodies’ dew
We have that which does not please you here:
Stones… or shame
So take the past, if you wish, to the antiquities market
And return the skeleton to the hoopoe, if you wish,
On a clay platter
We have that which does not please you: we have the future
And we have things to do in our land.

أيها المارون بين الكلمات العابرة
منكم السيف – ومنّا دمنا
منكم الفولاذ والنار- ومنّا لحمنا
منكم دبابة أخرى- ومنّا حجر
منكم قنبلة الغاز – ومنّا المطر
وعلينا ما عليكم من سماءٍ وهواء
فخذوا حصتكم من دمنا وانصرفوا
وادخلوا حفل عشاء راقص.. وانصرفوا
وعلينا، نحن، أن نحرس ورد الشهداء
وعلينا، نحن، أن نحيا كما نحن نشاء

أيها المارون بين الكلمات العابرة
كالغبار المرِّ مُرّوا أينما شئتم ولكن
لا تمرّوا بيننا
كالحشرات الطائرة
فلنا في أرضنا ما نعمل
ولنا قمحٌ نربيه ونسقيه ندى أجسادنا
ولنا ما ليس يرضيكم هنا
حجرٌ.. أو خجل
فخذوا الماضي، إذا شئتم إلى سوق التحف
وأعيدوا الهيكل العظمي للهدهد، إن شئتم
على صحن خزف
لنا ما ليس يرضيكم، لنا المستقبل
ولنا في أرضنا ما نعمل

הוי העוברים בין המילים החולפות
מכם החרב – ומאתנו הדם,
מכם פלדה ואש – ומאיתנו בשרנו,
מכם עוד טנק – ומאיתנו אבנים
מכם גז מדמיע – מאיתנו גשם
מעלינו, כמעליכם, שמים ואויר
אז קחו לכם את חלקכם של דמנו –
והסתלקו !
לכו למסיבת ריקודים – והסתלקו !
ואנו, עלינו להשקות את פרחי נרצחינו.
ואנו, עלינו לחיות כפי שנראה לנו.

הוי העוברים בין המילים החולפות
כאבק מר, לכו לאן שתרצו, אך
אל תעברו בינינו כחרקים מתעופפים
כי לנו יש עבודה לעשות בארצנו:
לנו חיטה לגדל ולהשקות עם טל גופינו
לנו מה שלא תרוו ממנו נחת פה:
אבנים… או בושה
אז קחו את העבר, אם תרצו, לשוק העתיקות
והחזירו לבולבול את השלד, אם תרצו,
על מגש של חימר
לנו יש מה שלא תרוו ממנו נחת: את העתיד
ולנו יש מה לעשות בארצנו.

[I’ve edited  here English & Hebrew translations I found online, using the knowledge & tools available to me. Any informed suggestions for changes or corrections will be welcomed.]

My identity’s my right זהותי זכותי: Lines I wrote today in Hebrew & translated into English / שורות שכתבתי היום בעברית ותרגמתי לאנגלית


Correcting a misleading English translation of a brave Haaretz Editorial on the challenge now posed by the Joint List MKs to “the Jewish politicians who dream of […] stopping Israel’s slide down the nationalist-religionalist slope”

Today’s courageous & insightful Hebrew editorial in Haaretz is not about background, but about the future.

The thrust of this editorial has (IMHO) been watered down (to say the least), a few (one especially, see if you find it) of its statements have been misleadingly mistranslated, & a few somewhat awkwardly translated.
To offer a more accurate translation I’ve therefore made a few changes to Haaretz’s English translation (using strikethroughs for my deletions from that translation, & bold for my changes/contributions to it).

The first misleading moment is in the title.





The decision by the Joint List MKs not to attend former President Shimon Peres’ funeral stated has established a very highly significant political fact. The leadership of the Arab public rebelled against the narrative of the Zionist majority, which ignores the history and feelings of the minority, and demonstrated dual political independence – vis-à-vis the official Israeli establishment, represented by that Peres represented, and and vis-à-vis Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who came to the funeral.

Joint List chairman MK Ayman Odeh appeared on the establishment TV Channel 2, our “tribal campfire,” and faced barbs of criticism from the interviewers when he presented an opposing narrative – the memory of the Nakba, the massacre of Kafr Qasem,Qassem, and the Arabs killed during the events of October 2000, commemorated in ceremonies in the Galilee and Wadi Ara. Never has a political figure from the majority Jewish community attended these events and they are not covered on prime-time television.


Ayman Odeh MK (Hadash), leader of the Joint List

The boycott of the funeral thus achieved its goal: placing the opposing narrative of the Arab minority at the center of media and public center stage attention, backed by the power of the third-largest faction in the Knesset. The excoriations condemnations of Odeh and his fellow faction members for their impoliteness protest will neither disappear efface nor blunt their principled blur the fundamental demand that they presented: that the Jewish majority recognize, recognition by the Jewish majority of the suffering and the mourning of the Arab public as a necessary condition for the building of a shared identity and for political cooperation in the future.

The Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offers to Israel’s Arab citizens more funding, promises of employment integration into the employment market and promotions of advancement in the civil service, in exchange for silence sealing their mouths and forgetting obliterating their narrative. The prime minister often says the Nakba is a lie, that 90 percent per cent of the stories about it are not true and that people who make the events public cause whoever has published its history has caused damage to the State of Israel. No wonder his government insists on hiding the archive files that would expose some of the events of 1948 from primary sources.

Any additional funding and action to close gaps between Jews and Arabs is welcome and important. But they will not buy the silence of the Arab community nor inspire the singing of the national anthem “Hatikva” in the streets of Nazareth, Sakhnin and Umm al-Fahm. Only recognition of a parallel Israeli story, at the heart of which are immoral acts by the majority toward the minority, can be the basis for shared citizenship and true integration. Jewish history teaches us that peoples do not easily give up their narrative, even in the face of temptations and persecutions.

This is the challenge that has now been set before the Jewish politicians who dream of replacing the right-wing government and stopping Israel’s slide down the binational nationalist-religionalist slope. Their goal will not be achieved without the cooperation of with the Joint List and its voters. Instead of automatically taking a knee-jerk stand with Netanyahu and the extreme right, and chiding the Arabs for not being nice, they must find a way ways to win hearts in the heart of the minority community.

My thanks to Sol Salbe who suggested I post the corrections this way.

Questions &/or comments about anything in or about this corrected translation will be welcomed. So will likes!


Update2 (now you can watch the clip): “Junction 48” director Udi Aloni’s Intro, & Yossi Tzabari’s “I too am an Arab” beside Tamer Nafer’s “Ana Meesh Politi” [“I’m Not Political”]

If you’re reading this on Facebook, first click this link:
Then click links as indicated in my Wordpress post.tameryossi-crop
THE PIC ABOVE IS NOT A LINK TO THE VIDEO CLIP. TO WATCH THE CLIP (&/or to read Uri’s intro in Hebrew , CLICK THIS LINK (& NOT THE PIC) WordPress post contains
— a video clip of Tamer Nafar singing (mostly in Arabic) his song “Ana meesh politi” from Udi Aloni’s film Junction 48 at the Israel Film & TV Academy’s Ophir Awards ceremony a couple of nights ago, in which he was joined by Yossi Tzabari rapping in Hebrew;
— a note on Israel’s Culture Minister Miri Regev’s shameful & slanderous response to the playback of lines by Mahmoud Darwish during the performance;
— my translation of Udi Aloni’s intro to his Facebook sharing of the clip;
— my verse translation of Yossi Tzabari’s part in the performance;
— a prose translation by Mark Marshall of it that was shared on Facebook by Ofer Neiman.
– some brief intrusions of my own.

The performance included a playback of Mahmoud Darwish reciting the opening lines of his poem “Identity Card”, which aroused Israel’s Culture Minister Miri Regev to leave the ceremony in protest, only to return later & slander Darwish by mendaciously mistranslating one of the lines. For more on this & an English translation of Darwish’s lines see my post

Udi Aloni, introducing the clip on Facebook today, wrote (my translation):

Here’s the whole performance!! I know that many have gone back to talking only about the tension between the [film] industry and Miri Regev, but the question that remains is a much deeper one, and it’s how much collaboration there is between both of them in the erasure of the Palestinian subject. The refusal of Ruba and Lamis [the lead actors of “Sand Storm”, chosen at the ceremony as the first all-Arabic language film to be Israel’s submission for the Oscars foreign film category] to go up on the stage with the denier of the Nakba and the censor of Darwish is in its essence a different struggle than that of the film industry for control of funds; these struggles could be unified, but the industry must clearly declare its opposition to the occupation, to the ongoing ethnic cleansing and the repression of the just Palestinian struggle. We started well at the ceremony, people stood with Tamer and Yossi – with a fist raised in solidarity: Lamis, Ruba, Amnon, Samar, the Palestinian families, Yael, Yael, and perhaps a few more I didn’t identify! The masks came down, you can’t make up to the ruling power without the world knowing. Now it’s time to be radical. Israeli filmmaking might be harmed a bit soon? Perhaps, but it’ll gain its independence

Ofer Neiman shared the post, & in a comment added a prose translation by Mark Marshall of Yossi Tzabari’s part in the performance of Tamer Nafar’s song. That translation (which I’m adding below mine) also contains interesting information about Yossi, & some content that I didn’t hear in the video clip, but I felt that Yossi’s part was so poetic (if also political) that an English translation which could convey something of that quality was needed (& even here I’ve been unable to capture all the rhymes & assonances etc of the original). My translation below is based on what I heard on the video. It begins only from after the playback of Darwish’s voice reciting in Arabic:

Write down: I am an Arab
And my identity card number is fifty thousand
I have eight children
And the ninth will come after the summer
Does that anger you?

Yossi comes in to stand beside Tamer, both of them with their fists raised high in the solidarity salute. He begins with a Hebrew translation of Darwish’s opening line:

Write down: I am an Arab.
Write down: I too am an Arab. But unlike Darwish Mahmoud,
I am an Arab from al-Yahud [Arabic for ‘the Jews’].
Write down: I too am an Arab.
A put-down, messed-up, mixed-up Arab
& I’ve gone thru heaps of identities
until I decided what to be.
An Arab Jew with messianic aspirations,
the robbed Cossack who cries in English
about the ethnic cleansing in the State that is Jewish.

Write down: We are Arabs.
Arabs, who haven’t learned the jargon
& who don’t play to the strains of your tone
& although we live between Egypt and Lebanon
we continue to believe, though it doesn’t make sense,
that we are in Europe, not the Middle East.
You speak about equality, co-existence and liberty,
and freedom of religion and education and culture
but you fear & consistently ignore
the hyphen that connects Arab & Jew.

Yossi now translates Tamer’s Arabic lines into Hebrew

We will go, as we are
A free beloved, & a faithful poet
We’ll go together,
on two different paths
We’ll go as we are
United, & separate
We’ll go together
& we’ll become good people
Ana meesh politi —  Ana meesh politi  — Ana meesh politi


Mark Marshall’s translation:
ID Card. Mahmoud Darwish. “Record: I am an Arab. My ID number is 50,000. I have eight children and the ninth will come after the summer. Does that anger you?” [The words “Does that anger you?” appear on the screen].
Record, Miri, [here he does a play on the words “tirshami, Miri” – Record, Miri – and converts it to “Tirshamiri”, which appears on the screen] – I too am an Arab. But unlike Mahmoud Darwish, I am an Arab from the Jews [he uses the Arabic word, al-Yahud]. My parents were born in Yemen and immigrated here not long ago. I have dark-coloured skin and the accent of natives of the region. Record, Miri. I too am an Arab. A screwed-up, accursed and confused Arab, and I have gone through a profusion of identities until I decided what to be. An Arab Jew with messianic aspirations, a patriot, who doesn’t make big parties by the beds of women giving birth. Record, Miri, you too, are an Arab. As Arab as they come, except that you ran from it as from fire, because an Oriental Jew still slides in the throat [a reference to speaking Hebrew with an Arabic accent[ but an Arab Jew, that’s a recipe for disaster. You speak loftily about equality and liberty, and freedom of religion and education and culture, but you trample with a rough foot and arbitrariness every chance for compromise and possibility of talks. Record, Miri. We are Arabs. And even though we live between Egypt and Lebanon, we continue to believe, without any logic, that we are in Europe, not the Middle East. Arabs, who do not trill in quarter-tones, Arabs, who have not learned the jargon, we speak French and Italian like nothing, but Emil Habibi – we read in translation. So in conclusion, here’s a little more Darwish: “Record, on top of the front page, I do not hate people, and I do not invade. But if I become hungry, the flesh of the occupier will be my food.”