Monday, July 30, 2007

Language and Perspectives

Achikam, my 19-year-old son, was inducted into the IDF yesterday morning. Last week he and I, along with his 21-year-old sister Nechama, went to a store in Jeruslem's largest mall that specializes in the gear that soldiers buy - all those neccessary items the army doesn't supply them with. As part of their service the staff (mostly in their twenties themselves) have drawn up tailored lists of what new soldiers will need, according to their branch of the army (and, of course, they just so happen to have all the items, perhaps not dirt cheap but conveniently all at one place). So Nechama and Achikam were following the list and filling a basket with stuff, while I wandered around. Nearby stood a rather bewildered looking woman, trying to figure out what she needed. A few people tried to be helpful, but eventually she muttered that she'd simply have to bring her son; a short exchange and it was clear that her son, also, was about to enlist, just like mine.

In English when sending someone off to deal with some challenge we wish them "good luck". Not so in Hebrew, where we say "be'hatzlacha" - "may you be successful". Is there a deep philosophical difference here? I don't know.

So I expressed my wishes for the woman's son: "That he be successful". She looked at me curiously, and retorted: "Let him come back in peace. Who cares about success!?"

1 comment:

Lydia McGrew said...

May he go in peace and return in safety.

How does IDF conscription work with young women? Was your daughter also required to serve in the IDF for three years?