The Jerusalem Post, which christens itself as Israel’s only English language daily, nevermind Haaretz’s daily English edition, has an ad for subscriptions that crops up somewhere in every print issue which reads, “The Best Hebrew Newspaper is Actually in English.” This is an insult to everyone whose brain has developed past the reptile level, because it is painfully obvious that the Jerusalem Post is the journalistic equivalent of the coelecanth, the long-thought extinct jawed fish that suddenly showed up in a fisherman’s net in the last century. The Jerusalem Post, you see, is the overseas resurrection of an at least semi-extinct American journalistic form: the yellow paper, the style pioneered by William Randolph Hearst, the style whose entire purpose is to sensationalize, to misreport, and to fan the flames of antagonism. Someday, when Israel’s film industry matures, there will be a film that opens with J-Post founder Gershon Agron muttering his dying words, “Nitzan vered,” which will of course turn out to be the name of his favorite gun from his Jewish Legion days or something.

The Jerusalem Post today is a repository for error-ridden reporting, questionable writing, morally reprehensible editorializing and the most reactionary commentators this side of al-Jazeera. The paper is by all accounts produced by a journalism-challenged, mostly unpaid pool of 20-something indentured servants trying to make it in Israel, all presided over by the tyrannical, megalomaniacal Caroline “Grendel’s Mother” Glick, alternately howling far-rightist propaganda in the language of demons and feeding upon the blood of the aforementioned pseudo-journalists for sustenance. The modus operandi for commentary is “Let’s get some minor rabbi or right-wing demagogue to talk about an issue with which he’s not familiar,” which yields such editorial gems as a full-page article about how cowboy movie hero and drunkard John Wayne would be rolling over in his grave to see modern movie cowboys tenderly making loving to each other in between riding horses and shooting Injuns (yes, that was an actual editorial about Brokeback Mountain). For cultural news, the formula is simple: “Get one of the indentured servants to call that hip-hop guy with the website, or that foul-mouthed kid on Jewlicious if he doesn’t pick up, and ask them their opinion, then selectively misquote them and spell their names wrong.”

What I’m trying to say is, the Jerusalem Post sucks.

But I was willing to tolerate that suckiness, because I read Haaretz, which, true, may give voice to moronic leftist demagogues like Amira Hass, but at least it has journalistic standards. But not anymore. Because yesterday, the Jerusalem Post published what for me is the final straw.

And I quote:

It drives me to despair.

Friends arriving from England whom I haven’t seen for the eighteen months since I was domicile there always challenge me with the same question.

“I suppose you speak Hebrew now?” or some other nonsense such as “I expect you listen to the news on TV, read the newspaper and so forth in Hebrew”.

And then I tell my story about how when I received an official-looking document with a sum of money boxed at the end of it, I proceeded to go to the Post Office to pay before something or other got cut off. On my way I met my neighbor and casually asked which service I was paying for. It was a statement of my first month’s earnings!

Things that arrive in the post are swiftly divided into those that need paying and the rest – that go in the bin.

Notes from school are also swiftly dealt with. If my son doesn’t have any idea what they are about (and often he doesn’t) then I look for a date on which something might be happening and try to work out what is happening. If there is no date and no sum of money, then clearly nothing much is required of me…into the bin.

…But do Israelis really understand what it is like to become an illiterate at the age of 50 plus. I look at the newspapers people are reading next to me on the bus, I look out of bus windows at the shop signs, posters on the billboards. Total bewilderment. In the supermarket I ponder whether the offer is two for the price of one or one free when I buy two.

My months of agony at ulpan were curtailed when, fortunately, I got much-needed work. And now, like every other good Israeli, I work endless hours for what my employers know can’t possibly be a living wage. So when do I have time or energy to learn this impossible language that has not the faintest ring of familiarity to someone deeply imbued in Latin-based languages?

Even the people I work with occasionally throw the “You must learn Hebrew” dictum at me. Well of course I must…

…or must I?

…Hebrew has, of course, been a way of uniting a polyglot people in this country of millions of emigres from around the world. We have bonded together in this particular Babel by making Hebrew our national language.

But never mind me learning Hebrew. I don’t have to prove my Zionist credentials. I’m here!

What about the appalling level of English among native born Israelis? English is not spoken nearly well enough here in Israel. That’s something to worry about.

Do you know what drives me to despair, lady? You. Fuck you. Yes, you must learn Hebrew. Yes, you do have to prove your “Zionist credentials”, because by “being here,” you mean “in a city full of English-speakers, in a neighborhood full of English speakers, working in a job for English speakers,” which sounds an awful lot like London! You don’t like the fact that people speak Hebrew here? You don’t appreciate the historically-unprecendented revival of so ancient a language as the mother tongue of millions of people? You think the world should revolve around your status as an Anglophone? GO HOME. How dare you have the chutzpah to insist that Israelis should learn to speak better English, especially given that most Israelis already speak it? Can you imagine what would have happened to this country if every immigrant came to it with your fucking disgusting air of high-class English entitlement? Picture an Israel where the Yekkes demanded public life be conducted in German, and the Moroccans in Arabic, and the Persians in Farsi, and the Russians in Russian, and the Indians in Marathi, and the Ethiopians in Amharic. You think Israel is a bureaucratic nightmare now?! But of course, none of these immigrants made any such demands. They said, “We are in Israel now, and in Israel they speak Hebrew,” and they proceeded to learn Hebrew – with no complaints, with no wounded sense of entitlement, and with no self-centered newspaper editorials. Because that is what you fucking do when you immigrate to a new country. Do you have any idea what the early chalutzim (that means “pioneers”, by the way) went through to make Hebrew a spoken language again? Do you have any appreciation for how hard it must have been for them to set aside Yiddish or Russian and swear to themselves from that point on to speak only in Hebrew, which at that point didn’t even have words for many common items? They suffered through malaria and nighttime Arab raids and heavy-handed British occupation and worked full days, all the while forcing themselves to will Hebrew into a spoken language, and in the space of a few years creating an entire Hebrew state – and you can’t even be bothered to learn supermarket offers, because your language is more important! And you have the gall to claim you’ve fulfilled your Zionist credentials?! Go. To. Hell.

It’s not that I’m not sympathetic to the fact that learning a new language is hard. I’m learning one. But therein lies the difference: I’m trying. I may not be fluent yet, but I’ve lived here for six months, and I speak more than a lot of my fellow Anglos who have been here for years. Why? Because I try. I read things written in Hebrew. If I see a word I don’t know, I look it up. When I go to the market, I speak in Hebrew. When I’m on the bus or in a cab, I speak in Hebrew. When I go to the bank or the post office or to the Bezek store, I speak in Hebrew. I listen to other people speak Hebrew. I watch English movies with Hebrew subtitles to learn how things are said. And not only is none of that particularly demanding, it’s in fact rewarding and even exciting. It’s a thrill when you understand TV programs or news articles or jokes, when you can make yourself understood in a foreign tongue for the first time. And why do I do it? Because I, like (one would think) most ideological immigrants, want to assimilate into the new place I have chosen to live. Never once has it occured to me to demand that the natives accomodate me by better speaking my language. Learning the language is my job, not the job of the middle-aged Ethiopian woman at the bank who has already learned a new language and a new culture. Why, of all the dozens of groups of immigrants to this country, are only the Anglos so entitled that they don’t have to do what everyone else did and learn the language?

Which brings me back to my initial point: no self-respecting newspaper would give prominent voice to such galling, offensive nonsense. Only the Jerusalem Post, which is, remember, the best Hebrew newspaper in Israel.

About the author

michael

60 Comments

  • ugh. Ben-Yehuda is rolling in his grave. that’s what you get for reading Jpost anyway. Ha’aretz is the only decent Hebrew newspaper in existence, never mind English language newspaper.
    by the way, bud is “nitzan,” but the reference is pretty clever.

  • Despite my own still embarrassing level of Hebrew (which is the bane of my existence), I agree with your basic points; the Jpost sucks and ya gotta learn Hebrew – but geez Michael, I fear the day I ever end up the recipient of your wrath. You are one vicious bitch!

  • Great rant. I responded on my blog as follows:

    My message to Michael: this woman doesn’t need you to attack her — she is punishing herself by moving somewhere permanently and not learning the language. When she gets used, abused and ripped off, she’ll have nobody to blame but herself. You keep on trying and learning — it will pay off.

    As for the Jerusalem Post — if it’s annoying you — just stop reading it. Certainly stop buying it. In the era of Haaretz and Ynet in English, there’s really no need. And anyway, if you read the Hebrew press, you’ll pick up the languages even faster.

  • I agree with you about the JPost. It makes me sick to see it distributed for free in my kibbutz ulpan, molding the minds of the ignorant. But I have to admit, sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever really be able to pass as a Hebrew speaker. I love learning Hebrew for all the same reasons you listed and hopefully soon I’ll be able to understand most of Eretz Nehederet, but there are moments (like when I try to contribute to a conversation amongst Israelis and I discover that I totally misunderstood everything they were discussing) that I just want to run for the hills.

    But yes, I also hate the Jerusalem Post.

  • the most annoying thing about the Jerusalem post is that by all accounts it SHOULD be good. They are covering the right stories, in the right places and talking to the right people – yet somehow, it still ends up either not saying much or saying it badly.

    It’s kinda like Saturday Night Live, after every time you watch it, you don;t really know why you bothered again this week.

  • Michael, let’s have Hebrew coffee talk…we’ll invite CK and Laya too…

    During the past few weeks Rehavia was taken over by the the French. All of those apartments that are empty during the year were full of French speakers…I saw them all today walking back from synagogue this morning. I wonder what paper they read?

  • Will of Amir al-Bakr the Camelfukker:

    If everyone’s here
    And I’m surely am dead,
    Then please listen up
    Don’t go jihading instead!

    Of my daughter Khadijah
    I order this mission:
    That your clitoris be cut off,
    In step with tradition.
    That you also be married when you turn eleven,
    And if you are being bad, then it will be seven,
    And your husband must waive
    The red sheets in the morning
    As proof of prior pureness,
    Or you’ll face a stoning!

    To my wife Mufeeda
    Of the beaten, veiled variety:
    I ask you be beaten
    To the fullest entirety!
    You might ask me why
    I will answer here forth–
    A woman is nothing
    She is but two cows’ worth.
    And as a cow deserves
    To be beaten into submission,
    Therefore, you as well
    Shall endure this condition.
    Don’t worry, my wife,
    Did you not know me as kind?
    Therefore, I ask
    That the law be in mind–
    The beater must note
    According to sharia, indeed,
    You can beat women senseless
    But stop when they bleed!

    To my first son Masood–
    I heard that you’re gay.
    Needless to say,
    That did not make my day.
    Therefore I order you dragged through the streets,
    For all your blasphemous and sickening deeds,
    Then I order you shot
    As you cry for your life.
    How dare you be gay?
    You dishonor our tribe!

    To my next son Ahmed:
    My suicide belt
    Bring a blast to the Infidels
    That they never have felt!
    Sneak into Israel
    And hopefully kill
    As many infidels
    As in Allah’s will!

    To my son Nawaz,
    I leave you my cash
    Under the camel’s crap–
    You will find my stash.
    With it, go to Pakistan,
    Where in the Madrassas,
    You’ll learn to hate Americans
    In all of your classes.
    Specifically, in chemistry you shall be taught
    All the poisons and virii which humans have wrought.
    And it you shall let loose on American soil
    A chemical weapon that surely will spoil
    Those arrogant infidels’ ignorant lives!
    Score one for Allah, for each one who dies!

    To my youngest son Abdul-
    My AK-47.
    May you kill many Christians
    And get into Heaven!

    Faisal, my brother
    For whom I have pride,
    I have bought you a Jihad pass
    Your choice worldwide!
    You have your choice of countries,
    There you’ll fight with AKs or stones,
    For our brothers have turned all these lands
    Into a terrorist war zones.
    Iraq, Turkey, and Pakistan,
    Algeria, Philippines, Afghanistan,
    Chechnya, Yemen, Kashmir, Palestine-
    Everywhere those pesky unbelievers are dyin’!

    And to my cousin Isa
    A lover of travel,
    I leave you a vacation
    So you can unravel.
    Also, take time to observe with great pride
    The progress of 1400 since our religion’s arrived:
    Saudi Arabia, Syria, Egypt, Iran, to name few,
    All wonderful spots to vacation for you!

    Then there’s my old, one legged uncle Hajju
    Who lost his leg while jihading the Jew
    To you, I leave my nice walking stick
    So you can now hobble around lookin’ slick
    And if you find a cartoonist who drew one of those pictures
    Use that walking stick to kill him according to our scriptures
    That walking stick has, on top, an embedded knife
    Stick it in him and end his blaspheming life!

    Then there is my beloved great uncle Eijaz
    Two teeth, no shoes, and great hatred he has
    For Christian, Jew, gay, and Baha’i,
    Europeans and Americans, he hopes they all die!
    And Israelis, specifically, he cannot stand
    He wishes to slaughter each last one with his hand.
    To Eijaz I leave my copy of “Elders of Zion”
    It’s like a hate-filled drug that you can get high on.
    A historical truth about the wrath of the Jews
    Kill them all, young and old, no time to loose!

    To my sister Aisha
    Of impeccable merit:
    Take our mother’s long veil
    So now you can wear it!
    It hides all your body and shows just one eye
    And if you undress it, then you should die.
    Moreover, if any deodorants or cosmetics
    On you are found
    I demand that you stoned to death
    While buried half in the ground.
    You may think me harsh
    Bu this be our law
    Blessed be Allah
    He hasn’t a flaw.

    And finally to my female cousin Inas
    I love you, but you have brought shame upon us!
    Last month you had sex with a man from the city
    You say you were raped, and if so, that’s a pity
    But now the family’s honor is stained, and our custom is clear
    I call for an honor killing for you, my dear.
    A male member from our tribe that is noble
    Will cut your throat for being so ignoble,
    And if from this “rape” it appears that you’re with child
    We’ll make the punishment a little more mild:
    We’ll wait nine months till the time after birth
    And then we’ll stone you buried half-way in earth!
    Don’t think of this as cruel, no, it’s sublime –
    It’s just like Mohammed did in his time!

    Mohammed, as you know, was Allah’s Prophet, of course
    And, indeed, what a glorious man he was –
    While preaching peace and coexistence, he killed every man, woman, and child
    Who found his rantings just a little bit wild
    He married a six-year-old, no doubt the wedding was merry
    He waited whole three years before popping her cherry!
    He raised women’s rights and now they live so well
    Covered in black burqas in a sweltering hell
    In court, their word is half that of a male
    How happy they must be under that veil!
    They can’t keep their kids if they have a divorce,
    Which is the husband’s choice, since man’s better, of course.
    Yes, Muslim women live better at Mohammed’s behest
    I wonder why two-thirds are said to be depressed…

    I wish all my family joy and farewell!
    I have left a fair will
    From what I can tell.
    I’ve been a good Muslim–one can suffice,
    Thus, I’ll meet you all one day
    In paradise!

    There, with seventy two virgins I’ll be
    And they never age beyond thirty three!
    They’re light-skinned and blue-eyed and their breasts are shapely,
    And I get to screw each and every, for free!
    There, alcohol flows,
    And you’re allowed to partake,
    But you never get hangovers
    When you awake
    And what’s most amazing–
    This I’ll admit–
    Is that I actually do
    Believe in this shit!

    -The author has chosen not to sign his name to this rhyme / because he wishes to
    live out his time / without some crazy Muslims from near or afar / cutting off
    his head with shouts of “allah u ahkbar!”

  • I agree that the JPost is a sorry excuse for English and a yellow rightist rag. The writers are banal, and they can’t contruct a sentence.

    However, anyone with a balanced point of view would also note that Haaretz, while their English is impecable, is so yellow and leftist that it makes the Palestinian Chronicle pale by comparison. It makes me puke.

    What is worse, is that Haaretz doesn’t have a single article of news in the entire paper. Every article, including the headlines on the front page, is opinion, even when not marked so.

    They may know how to conjugate verbs, but they have no idea how to construct an argument. For that reason, I prefer the Post.

    The truth is, is that the only English newspaper worth anything in Israel is the Herald Tribune, which comes together with Haaretz. If it didn’t, I would buy it. As it is, I refuse to support it.

    Yehuda

  • I couldn’t agree with you more about the moronic article. I was offended, bored and hoped that no Israelis would see the article. However, I do buy the Post on weekends as I refuse to pay money to purchase a newspaper which practically tells me in every article that I should pack up and hand over my key to the poor Palestinians who are suffering in Tulkarm because of my residing in Israel. I’m a communications student at Hebrew U, and nearly three years of intensive studies (and some extensive reading habits of my own) have “enlightened” me to the fact that I will never find a decent, objective paper in this country. Oh well.

  • First of all, what’s with the offensive poem by Charlie Chap? Can we please remove it, I don’t want any part of this hatred.

    Second, the editor of the J Post is David Horovitz. Previously, he was the editor of the Jerusalem Report. He is a serious, intelligent and on-the-ball individual and journalist.

    While their self-promotion about being the best paper around may be inaccurate, they are not as bad as you describe, and in fact, because of the strong bias of so many Ha’aretz articles, often far more to the center in their reporting. To remind you all, they lost their Right wing master.

    As for this opinion piece, it is just that, an opinion piece. It is intended to present somebody’s point of view to readers and no more. It does not represent the paper or the publisher or the editor, although it does show that they allow a variety of voices to be heard in their paper.

    As for her point, of course it is idiotic, but then again, I would not want to have to learn a new language at 50. Seriously, have some heart.

  • Talk about an oxymoron: leftist journalism and journalistic integrity have never even come close to being anything other than mutually exclusive. Case in point, the NYTimes… I’ll take (and enjoy) right-wing bias any day over apologists for suicide bombers and would-be murderers.

  • It’s true that JPost sucks, but you have to understand that this woman is in her 50’s… an age where her language learning capacity is almost entirely dried up. To top this off, she is responsible for other people besides herself. I’m guessing that you are not even responsible for yourself in Israel. You are ‘entitled’ to money from your parents for support, and do not have to earn a living while having to learn a new language. I am guessing that learning a new language does not have the same kind of reward for a 50-something year old trying to support a family as it does for a 20-something year old who just finished a semester at Hebrew U because he got mad at Tulane and decided to join the army while he finds his way in life.

    I agree that she should not expect Israelis to know English for her sake, but I do not agree that this is such a shock or an uproar that a 50 something year old from England is saying this.

  • Actually, homebwai, I do work and support myself. And please, I didn’t just move here simply because I got mad at Tulane and am embroiled in a international rite de passage. I came here in the wake of a hurricane because I loved the place, and I decided to stay because I loved the place, not out of pique. And while I realize that learning a language is hard at 50, and like I said I have sympathy for how hard the process is, I expect from everyone who moves here to, y’know, give it the ol’ college try. I just don’t have tolerance for the gross entitlement. Complain about how hard Hebrew is to learn, fine, I don’t care. But go on to claim that Israelis should learn English better to accomodate you? Nosiree bob. If English is the most important thing to a person, well, goshdarnit, there’s a wide world out there of English-speaking countries. From Glasgow to Anchorage to Kingston and everywhere in between, you can get your bank statement in English. But not in Jerusalem. And that’s something that a self-professed Zionist needs to accept as not only a fact of life, but, in point of fact, a good thing.

  • I must say that I have a love/hate relationship w/ the JP.

    For many years, it was my best friend. Now I haven’t seen one in a couple of years.

    Years ago I worked at the post. It was a relatively cool gig. They use to let us have free copies. they were placed, by day, on some kind of cabinet near the small cafe/kiosk. I left after a while to join the IDF. As an impoverished soldier, I would venture there on my rare free Shabbat or day off, and I would go up and take a paper. Some guy there didn’t like it, and he would hound me. he would appear out of nowhere, on to my little schemes. So I would wait until Shabbat started, by then it was just the Shomer. Then I would head for the remains over at Machane Yehuda. Some English guy was always on acid, he had that acid laughter.

    You could make out OK there if you lasted, they had some pretty good salary and benefits in those days.

    I always thought the reporters were a bit odd myself.

  • Whoa. I don’t disagree that people who live in a country should learn the language. But I’m with Laya, I hope I never see the business end of Michael’s vitriol. And I pity whoever they get to balance your madrikhitude on any purportedly-actual-but-currently-still-fictional birthright trips this summer…

  • Michael is right. I imagine it must be very difficult to learn a new language at 50. That she sounds quite proud of the fact that she isn’t planning to even try to improve is pathetic at best. It is precisely Anglos like her who give all Anglos here a bad name and make us the butt of jokes. The joke will be on her though, as she will never assimilate, and will always be the outsider. She will miss out on critical information. She will never become Israeli.

    The JPost certainly showed very poor judgement in printing this opinion piece, but then I’d imagine it probably speaks to a lot of their readers. I was never terribly impressed by their low-brow, right-wing style (with the exception of a number of excellent writers, at least in the past, don’t know what the situation is now), and this piece just reinforced my feelings about them.

  • Although, the point isn’t to assimilate and be Israeli anymore… the point is just for this to be a Jewish state – being Israeli now means more than just working hard on the kibbutz and having funny hair (as Michael and I learned in our lit class).

  • Haaretz has journalistic standards? You got to be kidding. It makes me sick eveytime I read it. It basically serves as a mouthpiece for the Plo and Hamass. Nazi websites groups reprint their articles all the time. You are truly sick Michael.

  • Seth – I know lots of people who moved to Israel in their 40s and 50s and mastered the language. Actually, my oldest friend’s mother moved here from Romania when she was 56, not knowing even the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet. She was a physician in Romania and passed her medical boards in Israel (in Hebrew, of course) within 18 months while working as a nurse to support her mother and daughter. She’s been practicing medicine in Israel ever since. I know a few others like her, too.

    Maybe it’s difficult to learn a new language after a certain age, but it’s certainly not impossible. It just takes a little effort.

  • Lisa moved here in her 30’s and her Hebrew is excellent.

    I think that a key factor is getting yourself into some kind of environment where you can’t resort to English. I always reccomend that newcomers who speak English at home and at work, that they find a volunteer opportunity with children — kids don’t speak English, and you’re not embarrassed to make mistakes in front of them.

    It’s harder to learn when you live in an Anglo ghetto. I’m really glad I lived in Tel Aviv for five years before I moved to Raanana.

  • Now that I think about it, maybe the woman’s problem in the article is that too many people in Israel speak English. Or at least that’s the feeling I get about this. When you are Romanian and are forced to communicate, you become resourceful. When you live in Jerusalem, or even Tel Aviv, where people were either born in English speaking countries, worked in English speaking countries, or are on their way to working in English speaking countries, it becomes an even slower process of learning. Your language learning capabilities dramatically decline during adolescence, and then even more after your teenage years. You can just imagine where they are at for the average 50 year old.

    Also, it’s not just the Anglos that do this. There are Russians who have been here for 15 years and know that they don’t need to learn Hebrew in order to get by.

    I guess I just hate pinning these things on people who come here by choice, as if they don’t already get enough embarrassing criticism for leaving ‘paradise.’

  • I think the points made (barring the offensive poem) in these posts are valid. I find learning Hebrew difficult, but I know why it is difficult for me: I don’t make enough time for it. I agree that working in a mostly English-speaking environment is not going to help one learn Hebrew any faster, and the sense of entitlement is horrid. I know that if/when I am able to go to Israel, I will be reduced to tiny, grammatically incorrect, phrases supplemented with a lot of handgestures, but I want to make the effort now to at least get major words and concepts down. I think Michael hit it on the head with the excitement and thrill when you realize you may understand something. I was listening to an Israeli music CD that I’ve had and listened to for months and realized I could understand what the song was saying (and it is shamefully simple, so I’m not repeating it, but it was an “aha” moment for me). Sometimes I get so frustrated when I have to look up words or refresh grammatical points that I want to cry, and I’m not immersed in Hebrew speaking communities (don’t get that much in rural midwestern America). I admire Michael for continuing his schooling in Israel and making the most of a tragic event and I admire his dedication to learning the language.

  • I can sympathize with you, Ziva. The biggest reason that it’s hard to learn Hebrew are the lack of opportunities to speak it when you’re not living in Israel, certain parts of NYC or South Florida. Learning it once or twice a week in an Ulpan or adult class setting only gives you some of the capacity to speak/read it. Unfortunately, you’ve got to seek out opportunities to use it on your own. In our case, it’s little things like being in New York, finding out that the owner of an electronics store is Israeli, and trying to haggle with him in Hebrew over the price of a portable DVD player. There’s something poignant about “ani lo freier” that doesn’t come across b’Anglit.

    I get that “aha” feeling a lot when I listen to Israeli CDs. I don’t get the entire song, but I’m picking out enough to realize meanings. Of course then you realize how banal some of it is (particularly some of the Mizrahi and pop music), but then there’s the chance to appreciate the genius of Tipex or the poetry that’s in some of Subliminal’s lyrics.

    While you don’t learn as quickly at, say, 40 as at 20, part of the reason is that there’s just so much more in the way, like having to chase kids around the house to make sure they’re ready to leave for Sunday school rather than going over forms of pi’el verbs.

    The upside is that you’ve got add’l maturity you didn’t have in school, and for those of us trying to learn conversational Hebrew as adults, more motivation because you’re trying to do it for more than just a grade.

    Otherwise, I don’t see the point of moving to Israel and expecting “world class” English skills on the street. You really don’t get what “rak b’Yisrael” means if you’re living in an Anglo bubble.

  • Ziva is right, when you don’t make time for something, or make it a priority, it doesn’t get done…like everything else in life.

    I really regret now not working on my writing ability more, it drives me crazy not being able to tell my first grader whether a word is spelled right.

  • Wow. It is really scary to see all these leftist, self-hating Jews rail against a paper simply because it is conservative-leaning. The article you cited was certainly not a typical JPost story. But don’t read it if you don’t like it. You can join Chomsky and the rest who read Haaretz. When are we going to start standing up for ourselves? The JPost editorials are often brilliant and tell it like it is.

  • I know people who learn a new language at any age, simply because they have a deep desire to know the country on a deeper level. For example, a New Yorker I know loves Holland. He goes there several times a year, and he purchased some kind of expensive home study course. He is proud of his progress. He can carry on a few sentenced in Dutch.

    Anything less than that, to me, is most likely that the person, does not really want to be in Israel, but are either forced there, by circumstances, or are unable or too lazy, to move elsewhere or to go back to their country of origin.

    So for them, at least the JP provides a fairy good observation of life in Israel.

    For the person who sees themselves wanting to hang out mostly w/ Israelis in a Hebrew atmosphere, then the jp for them is silly to read.

  • Noah, for many of us, I think it’s not at all the conservative-leaning-ness of the paper, but the badly written conservativeness of it that we take umbrage with.

    And what is with people lately who cannot for the life of them understand nuance? If you criticize the Jpost, you are a chomsky lover, if you question women’s true equality in society you are a raging feminist, if you ask what can we do to help slavery in africa you are a bleeding heart armchair leftie. And then whatever people think you are, you clearly toe the party line completely. sheesh people. allow for a little complexity in your world views!

  • The best way to learn Hebrew is to live in a place with very few English speakers. The second best way is to have the radio on Hebrew channels all of the time. Slowly you realize that you understand more and more (although your vocabulary becomes pretty loaded down with military jargon…)

  • Yes, yes, of course, me and all my self-hating friends like to get together on Shabbat for a nice pork tenderloin which we eat off the naked body of a non-Jewish sex worker, while a rabbi we’ve kidnapped, tied up and clothed entirely in shatznetz looks on in horror. Then we sing a cheery tune, which goes, “La la la la la la, I hate God!” And then we give an offering of Jewish blood to appease our Dear Leader Noam Chomsky.

    But hey, you know, at least us leftist, self-hating Jews live in Israel where we actually have to deal with the consequences of our actions and our ideologies, as opposed to yet another armchair rightwinger who likes to tell Israelis how to live and doesn’t have to worry about the Kassams or suicide bombers raining down on Boston.

  • Phew, that was harsh Michael! I do agree with you however on your opinion on her article. I honestly don’t understand all the nonsense she has written. If you move to Tanzania, people speak Swahili, if you move to France people speak French. Therefore if you move to any of these countries it is your responsibility to learn their language, not theirs to learn yours. Why should an entire nation bend over to accommodate you? Only an utterly moronic person doesn’t understand that. I’m also currently learning another language- and as Michael said its hard as hell, so what? What selfish crap. No country needs such selfish citizens.

  • Michael: You should calm down. I know that you’re in Israel, and that is wonderful; the fact that you are undertaking language immersion also is terrific. But your appearances on this site to berate people the way you are — from the British olah to the e-mailers who have the audacity to comment on your rant — negates much of the tachlis of what you have to say. Your holier-than-thou attitude is a turn-off to me and, I suspect, to others.

    Also, you’re mixing two rants into one posting, and that’s of no help for focusing the discussion in an intelligent way.

    On the Post, here’s a middle ground for you: I happen to hate the Post’s editorial inattention to (and apparent scorn for) detail that makes the word “sloppiness” woefully inadequate. As a journalist, I for years have circled the JP’s errors with a red pen, and rare is the time that embarrassing red marks were NOT visible on prominent spots in the paper — including once when the date was wrong! The coverage given to reporting, too, is embarrassing — not because the reporters and writers are bad (although some may be, as at any paper), but because the articles are terribly thin, because the pages devoted to news articles are a fraction of what they should be in a country with so much happening every day, because headlines and photos often are ridiculously enlarged at the expense of the written word — and on and on and on.

    That said, the editorials and op-eds are the paper’s bright spots. Op-eds are diverse and often very good. Editorials, especially, are reasoned — and any editorial page that puts at the top of its agenda Israeli security concerns and people’s right to stay alive gets an A+ in my book.

    As one e-mailer stated, buy another paper that’s more to your liking. Use your Hebrew skills to read Hebew papers. Criticize to your heart’s content, but drop the vitriol.

    Everyone else who loves Hebrew and wishes to improve their ability: Listen to Israeli radio, including (especially for those of us in chu”l) on the Internet. Buy Israeli nonfiction (which is challenging, but doable) or Hebrew newspapers (ditto). If you only have a few chances to speak Hebrew with someone, dayenu. But MAKE the time. I have children and work, too, and my schedule is limited by a million other things. I know that time is stretched for everyone. But reading Hebrew a few hours a week — on the train, at lunch hour, on Shabbat — on a continual basis will make a difference. There really is no greater thrill for those of us plugged into Israel than having what an e-mailer described as an “aha!” moment. I had one today in the car, listening to a song on my children’s “100 Israeli Songs” tape — which I’d listened to many, many times before — and having the words finally hit me and understanding the entire point of the song. Do not give in to frustration over the difficulties of learning the language. Hebrew is wonderful, and is rewarding to learn. Plus, what a thrill to be in synagogue and hear the Torah reader chant a word that in the Bible is obscure, and to realize that that word not only means the same today as it did then (more or less), but that Ben Yehuda knew enough to adapt the word for not an obscure, but a day-to-day, function in modern Hebrew. Case in point, from a recent Torah reading: mazleg (fork).

  • The Brit’s not an olah, she’s acting like a foreign resident that gets benefits from calling herself an immigrant. There’s a difference. When she gets around to Hebrew immersion (or at least tries to learn enough Hebrew to learn the difference between paychecks and bills without complaining that she doesn’t understand why English skills aren’t better in Israel!), she can call herself an olah.

    As a centrist (I find both the left and right foolish and think that civil marriage is far more important than subsidies to the Haredim), I find the Post more superficial in reporting anything except headline stories than purely foaming at the mouth conservative. It’s even more superficial on a relative scale than our Chicago Sun-Times was under Lord Robber Baron. And his paper had a better sports section, needless to say.

    Ha’aretz does give a platform to Haas and Gideon Levy’s drivel, but I dismiss them as the cardboard cutouts of lefties that they are. They’re no more ridiculous on the spectrum than the one-note rantings of the right on their websites. Until my Hebrew skills get better, though, it’s the only serious well-rounded (at least as far as offering 8 different opinions in slight degrees of subtlety about the same issue) paper available to English speakers in the US that tells us something about how Israelis report on Israel. And for us non-New Yorkers, it’s not cheap to get in the mail, either — over $200/year. I’m hoping that when I get through my five-year Ulpan, I can put that $$$ to use getting Maariv or Yediot in the language of the culture. Until then, where else are we supposed to learn about Tel Aviv hotspots in print for our next trip?

    It’s nice to see that I’m likely not the only American that listens to Israeli radio: it’s most of what I have on in the office (Reshet Gimmel, Lev Hamedina, Radio-Yo) except for news and sports. One of the biggest kicks I get is during a Jewish holiday when I hear commercials for holiday sales, or understanding more than a few words in the hourly news. It gives you a sense of community that us more secular types don’t always get from the Jewish world here.

  • Michael, I think that you are totally self-rightous. You’ve been in Israel a few months, in school, young and with plenty of time.

    You don’t work full time and have kids while you are trying to learn Hebrew.

    She’s in her 50’s for G-ds sake- and Kudos to Lisa’s friends mom (who could be real or just another urban legend) but anyone who learns a second language after middle age is in the minority. Most people, American, Russian, French or Morracan just stick with their own.

    Are you going to start bashing the little old Ethiopian lady for not getting off her ass and learning hebrew- I mean really…

    It doesn’t matter what country a person is in. Think of China town or little Italy in America.

    Get off your soap box and offer to babysit her kids if it is really so important to you that she learns Hebrew.

  • what’s with this pity party for the middle aged? a person of the age of 50 is not old, for god’s sake, and it is no easier for a 20 year old to learn a new language than it is for a 50 year old. past the age of 12, it doesn’t matter how old you are. it’s really hard for some people, and somewhat easier for those who have a gift for languages. at any rate, Sarah, if anyone is self-righteous, it’s the idiot who wrote that piece. she’s proven her “Zionist credentials” by moving to a country and bitching about how backward it is on the basis that its citizens don’t rise to her level of English. If she is making the effort to learn Hebrew, good for her. After all, it’s only been a year and a half. She can’t expect to be fluent. It’s too bad that at the same time she feels it is necessary to make a total jackass of herself by boasting of her ignorance and passing it off as a reluctance to submit to Israeli nationalist fervor.

  • You say “self-righteous” (well, actually, you said “self-rightous,” but whatever), I say “right.”

    You’ll note, as I have said many times before, that it’s not her difficulty in learning Hebrew I take issue with. It’s that she refuses to try and instead demands that everyone around her learn to speak English better. That’s real self-righteousness.

    I’m not going to bash any little Ethiopian ladies unless they publish self-centered, poorly written editorials in major newspapers demanding that Israelis start learning better Amharic to suit their needs.

    And something tells me whether I offered to babysit her kids or not, that wouldn’t solve her healthy sense of entitlement, which is of course her real problem, not her age or her busy schedule. And you’re right, it doesn’t matter what country you’re in, it’s your responsibility as a citizen to learn the language, whether you’re in Chinatown or Little Italy or Kamchatka. Just because some little Italian mama 80 years ago in Little Italy never did learn how to speak English so well doesn’t mean this woman doesn’t richly deserve a good mocking. Because, oh Lord Almighty, she does.

  • You totally missed the point of the article- or maybe you just didn’t read through to the end.

    “For Israel to continue to claim its place in the competitive global markets it needs to improve its English dramatically.”

    She wasn’t saying everyone must learn English for her- but to better their place in the International Community.

    Can you really argue against that?

  • There is no pity party for the middle aged. Its just reality- the older a person gets, the harder it is to learn a second language.

    You can’t compare trying to learn a new language at 5yrs old to a 25 yr old to a 55yr old.

  • Thanks for the mention of Reshet Gimmel–I’m loving it. I had been a fan of just straight CDs or four towns radio, but this is great (and yep, hearing something I recognize still makes me happy).

  • Oh, I read it through to the end. But it’s a bullshit point, seeing as Israelis speak English perfectly well. She tacked it on to justify her own refusal to attempt to learn Hebrew, and introduced the entire point by saying that their English when speaking to her was inadequate.

    So yes, I can argue with that. She’s still a twit, no matter what higher purpose she attributes her refusal to try to learn Hebrew to.

  • Oh, and wonk wonk fuckin’ wonk. I’m not asking her to be fluent in Hebrew at her oh-so-advanced, time-to-be-put-out-to-pasture age, I’m asking her to not deal with it by deflecting the issue to Israelis’ “inadequate” English. She’s having trouble? Big screaming deal, she can put post-it notes on the fridge that say “mekarer” like every other fucking oleh.

  • Whoops, I left out a town: I meant to say I enjoyed five towns radio (not four). I know that isn’t a major strain of the conversation, but listening to music can be so helpful (some songs slow down the words from the rapid-fire way they are normally said, so the listener can hear/understand them).

  • Stuart, Ma’ariv is even more of a rag than Jpost, if possible. It’s one sensational headline (accompanied by some horrid, cheesy graphic of cross-hairs or a bull’s eye) away from tabloid status. Yediot is somehow bearable. Politics aside, it’s no contest. Ha’aretz is the only newspaper in Israel with well-written content.

  • Ofri — that’s a pretty miserable standard indeed. Their late, unlamented website in English (www.maarivintl.com IIRC) made Jpost look like the NYT in comparison, but I’d hoped that their cash-strapped status (didn’t they have financial or legal issues at the time they did the site?) had something to do with it, rather than reflecting the paper in Hebrew.

    Re the Post, it’s fine if your only exposure to Israeli news is the NYT or blurbs from your local Jewish monthly, but echoing of Daniel Pipes and heavily wire-service-driven stories aside, it has not nearly the reporting and in-depth analysis of the likes of Akiva Eldar, Amos Harel, and Lili Galili about the domestic political scene. However, I’ll spot the Post Khaled Abu Toameh over the Terrible Two (Hass and Levy).

    Besides, the Underground website’s “street Hebrew” is a great resource for picking up slang to throw at Israelis you meet in the US and embellishing emerging language skills.

  • I finally read a book written in Hebrew a few years ago, it was an awesome exp. I had never done that, even tho I am fluent. I was inspired by a chick who bought a book in line at the airport Steimatzky. I asked her if it was a good book and she beamed and what not, so I bought one also. Some novel by Ram Evron I think, he is real popular. It was like a John Grisham type book.

    I suspect many on this list have never tried that, it is worth the effort.

    I do feel the JP has gotten worse over the years. but I hardly read the Hebrew papers either, too much crap. The Haaretz web site is easiest to download tho.

  • do you mean Ram Oren? yea, he definitely writes John Grisham type novels, but whether or not that’s a positive is open to interpretation. Jobber does have a point though, reading fiction is a great way to practice your Hebrew and get a feel for the vernacular. Personally I like David Grossman.

  • i am a native israeli, although i read the IHT (to practice my english, which is in my opinion could be better).
    i’m not familier with the Jpost, and i don’t agree with the writer on most of the things he wrote there, but one thing is certain (which i agree with the writer on), the level of the english spoken in israel (and even by me), is not good enough.
    the only way to practice a language is the speak, when you don’t have anyone to speak to you simply have a tool that you don’t know how to use.

    btw, i have to say, very good site ! 🙂

  • I hate Haaretz,Jpost may not be the best newspaper in the world but it is certainly better that the palestinian newspaper Haaretz.
    Tip for the reader of Haaretz :Learn Arab and buy Al-Hayat

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