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

The Syrian Civil War May Be Coming to an End, but Three New Wars Are Rising There

March 26 2019

With both Islamic State and the major insurgent forces largely defeated, Syria now stands divided into three parts. Some 60 percent of the country, in the west and south, is in the hands of Bashar al-Assad and his allies. Another 30 percent, in the northeast, is in the hands of the mostly Kurdish, and American-backed, Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The final 10 percent, in the northwest, is held by Sunni jihadists, some affiliated with al-Qaeda, under Turkish protection. But, writes Jonathan Spyer, the situation is far from stable. Kurds, likely linked to the SDF, have been waging an insurgency in the Turkish areas, and that’s only one of the problems:

The U.S.- and SDF-controlled area east of the Euphrates is also witnessing the stirrings of internal insurgency directed from outside. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, “236 [SDF] fighters, civilians, oil workers, and officials” have been killed since August 2018 in incidents unrelated to the frontline conflict against Islamic State. . . . The SDF blames Turkey for these actions, and for earlier killings such as that of a prominent local Kurdish official. . . . There are other plausible suspects within Syria, however, including the Assad regime (or its Iranian allies) or Islamic State, all of which are enemies of the U.S.-supported Kurds.

The area controlled by the regime is by far the most secure of Syria’s three separate regions. [But, for instance, in] the restive Daraa province in the southwest, [there has been] a renewed small-scale insurgency against the Assad regime. . . .

As Islamic State’s caliphate disappears from Syria’s map, the country is settling into a twilight reality of de-facto division, in which a variety of low-burning insurgencies continue to claim lives. Open warfare in Syria is largely over. Peace, however, will remain a distant hope.

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More about: ISIS, Kurds, Politics & Current Affairs, Syrian civil war, Turkey