The creation of the modern State of Israel came about amid a confluence of historical, cultural and spiritual forces with a vocabulary of their own. Here are some Hebrew terms you are likely to come across as Israel celebrates its 60th birthday in 2008.
Aliyah – to immigrate to Israel. To “make aliyah” has an additional, spiritual dimension, for “aliyah” comes from the word that means, “to ascend.” In the Scripture, one never merely goes to Jerusalem – one “goes up.”
Galut – “Exile.” For two thousand years, the Jewish Diaspora (dispersion) has been haunted by a sense of physical and existential alienation. The term galut carries with it a sense of brokenness and dislocation – the opposite of the wholeness.
Halutz (plural: Halutzim) – “Pioneer.” The early generation of Zionist settlers of the Land and others who “made the desert blossom” with their hard work and sacrifice.
Ha’aretz – The Land of Israel. This term conveys a sense of reverence and awe that Jewish people, homeless for so long, feel for their homeland.
Kibbutz (plural: Kibbutzim) – Derived from the word, “together,” the kibbutz is a collective farm or community. A major force in Israel’s formative years from the late 19th century to it’s early years of independence, the kibbutz captured the pioneering idealism of Jewish determination to create a new kind of self-sufficient society. Kibbutzim often formed around particular ideas or ideologies and frequently ran on socialist principles. Today, only a small minority of Israelis derives its livelihood on kibbutzim.
Moshav – “Settlement.” This kind of village or agricultural community shares some features in common with the kibbutz, except that its parcels of land are privately held.
Sho’ah – “Catastrophe.” It is the Hebrew word for Holocaust – the annihilation of six million Jewish people in Europe during World War II. Yom Ha-Shoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) is an officially recognized observance that corresponds with the 27th of Nisan on the Hebrew calendar. This year, it was observed on Friday, May 2nd.