Israel Stories

Friday, March 31, 2006

The Tour Guide

‘And so dear friends, that is why this glorious city, king of all the modern Israeli cities, is called after the very man whose dream and vision it was to establish and resettle the land.’

You may be forgiven for thinking that maybe, just maybe this unofficial Israeli tourist guide was talking about Hertzliyah, but of course that would be utterly ridiculous. Instead the city we were standing in was, well see if you can guess……

I’ll give you a clue. As is well known, documented and laughed at, the transliteration of many of the Israeli place names was undertaken by a German, Austrian, Pole, and a chimpanzee. Consequently the ridiculous spelling is symptomatic of the Europeans being unable to pronounce and distinguish certain letters.

So, on the approach to Tzfat you will see signs to Safed, Zefat, Z’fat and Tzfat. Even tourist books spell it several ways in order that the unwary traveler shouldn’t be too confused. Pure logic!

Nitza boulevard in Netanya has three road signs along its cliff top road, Nice, Nitza and Niche, presumably this road was named after the famous philosopher Nitcha! (Yes I know I spelled it wrong).

Other good places are Jaffa, Yafo and Joppa, Lod, Lud and Lydda, Hebron, Hevron and Chebron and Shkhem, Shachem, Sh’chem and Nablus. Choose one guys.

Of course this Israeli pastime of not really caring to standardize their spelling is evident in shops, magazines and my personal favorite, restaurant menus. Yes I’ll order the onyon soup, then the stek and mishrooms and popper sauce and side order of frize. For dessert I think I’ll just have the orangze sourbet. After a time your eyes just get used to it and your brain adapts so I could type; thise Israolis caint spill for thir livvs and you’d either think was I Scottish, drunk or an Israeli menu writer. (The only job where an education is thoroughly frowned upon.)

Boasting one of the world worst propaganda machines, you would hope their English would be correct and appropriate, right Mr Barak?

If you’re good at word games then looking up a road name is a fun pastime, if not it can be an absolute pain in the atlas.

So the poor tourists have no chance. It can get dangerous with bad spelling like Ramla, Ramala, Ramela, Remala and Ramalla etc. Another good one, and then I’ll stop, is Petach Tikva. Spelled in so many ways it defies belief from Peta Tikwa to Peha Ticwa it is probably the most consistently multi-spelled misspelled place in the entire State of Israel

So back to our tour guide who was now elaborating on the virtues of St Peter, the first Pope. This city, he told his Christian tour group, was founded by Christian missionaries as a city of hope for the future of the Children of Israel. The word Tikva (or Tikwa or Tikwer) means hope and so the city was named…………………


  • Ach, JC, but there was a reason for all this. To confuse the Russians. Imagine the invading army, tanks rolling and all, trying to get from point A to point B. Using these road signs. He he.

    Same re the tourists, especially ones driving. The more they get lost, the more stuff they purchase in the most unlikely places...

    By Blogger SnoopyTheGoon, At 9:45 AM  

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