How Do You Say “Wonder Woman” in Hebrew?

With the release of multiple movies featuring the superhero Wonder Woman, the Israeli press has changed the way it translates her name. Naomi Sokoloff comments:

Wonder Woman, on Israeli TV, was known as “Eyshet Ḥayil.” That’s a delightfully apt and inexact translation which draws on a phrase from the Bible. . . . In Proverbs 31, eyshet ḥayil is often translated as “a woman of valor.” However, the root that gives rise to the word ḥayil can refer to valor (in the sense of courage), valiance (in the sense of determination and heroism), or force, particularly military force (hence the implications of boldness, daring, audacity, and strength), as well as virtue (meaning decency, honor, goodness). . . . Since this text is traditionally sung or recited in Jewish households on Friday night (by the man of the house, to honor his wife), eyshet ḥayil inevitably carries connotations of piety and religious observance.

The discrepancy between that image and the image of a scantily clad Amazonian superhero makes for comic discordance. . . . No wonder, then, that the recent Hollywood Wonder Woman films starring the Israeli actress and model Gal Gadot are often referred to in the Israeli press as “Vunder Voman.” The transliteration from English helps the pop-culture icon make sense in a Hebrew-speaking milieu. . . .

Yet the option remains of going with what makes sense within Hebrew tradition, and simply enjoying the surplus of meaning that the phrase eyshet ḥayil generates. . . . Part of the power of modern spoken Hebrew—even in its everyday, most ordinary routines and in the setting of popular culture—is that it can spark a cluster of associations. It negotiates constantly between past and present, religious and secular spheres of meaning, Jewish culture and other influences.  Today’s Hebrew encourages us to reconsider traditional texts, and it offers . . . words and phrases in which meanings collide, compete for attention, recombine, subsume, and reinterpret one another.

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Read more at Stroum Center for Jewish Studies

More about: Arts & Culture, Film, Hebrew, Israeli culture, Modern Hebrew

The Reasons for Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Staying Power

Nov. 20 2018

This week, Benjamin Netanyahu seems to have narrowly avoided the collapse of his governing coalition despite the fact that one party, Yisrael Beiteinu, withdrew and another, the Jewish Home, threatened to follow suit. Moreover, he kept the latter from defecting without conceding its leader’s demand to be appointed minister of defense. Even if the government were to collapse, resulting in early elections, Netanyahu would almost certainly win, writes Elliot Jager:

[Netanyahu’s] detractors think him Machiavellian, duplicitous, and smug—willing to do anything to stay in power. His supporters would not automatically disagree. Over 60 percent of Israelis tell pollsters that they will be voting for a party other than Likud—some supposing their favored party will join a Netanyahu-led coalition while others hoping against the odds that Likud can be ousted.

Opponents would [also] like to think the prime minister’s core voters are by definition illiberal, hawkish, and religiously inclined. However, the 30 percent of voters who plan to vote Likud reflect a broad segment of the population. . . .

Journalists who have observed Netanyahu over the years admire his fitness for office even if they disagree with his actions. A strategic thinker, Netanyahu’s scope of knowledge is both broad and deep. He is a voracious reader and a quick study. . . . Foreign leaders may not like what he says but cannot deny that he speaks with panache and authority. . . .

The prime minister or those around him are under multiple police investigations for possible fraud and moral turpitude. Under Israel’s system, the police investigate and can recommend that the attorney general issue an indictment. . . . Separately, Mrs. Netanyahu is in court for allegedly using public monies to pay for restaurant meals. . . . The veteran Jerusalem Post political reporter Gil Hoffman maintains that Israelis do not mind if Netanyahu appears a tad corrupt because they admire a politician who is nobody’s fool. Better to have a political figure who cannot be taken advantage of than one who is incorruptible but naïve.

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Read more at Jager File

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel & Zionism, Israeli politics