If you ask an Israeli, there are two places in the world: Israel… and chu”l.
Chu”l, like every Hebrew word with a “choopchik” (double-quote) in it, is an abbreviation. In this case, it stands for חוץ לארץ / chutz la’aretz, or “outside of Israel.” (Sounds like “chooool.” Rhymes with “rule,” like the Golden Rule.)
And yup… that means, “every place in the world besides Israel.”
Because, you know, Israel is just so very, very big. Kind of dwarfs the rest of the world by comparison, don’t you think?
Well, okay. We know Israel is not very big. But Israel is a tiny country with a HUGE ego. A big sense of itself and its footprint in the world. Not utterly unjustified, given its continuing prominence on the world stage, but still… sometimes, Israelis do push it a little.
This happened in ulpan once. My teacher handed out a list of celebrities and we had to decide if they were “famous” or “famous only in Israel.” Some were obvious, like Madonna and okay, Benjamin Netanyahu. That was about it for famous Israelis.
I was trying to be honest, but I didn’t want to break her heart by telling her that for the most part, all the “famous” Israelis she’d listed would be persona non grata if they showed up in Canada or the U.S.
I wish I could remember the examples, but that actually makes my point. These were NOT famous people. They were famous Israelis.
Every week, my husband and I practice my Hebrew by having me read the trivia questions out of the newspaper. (How does this help his Hebrew? I’m not sure.)
And almost every week, we get a question that begins with “איזה כדורגלן…” / “Which soccer player…” To which we both groan. Seriously? These are famous Israelis, but they are not famous outside of Israel. Or inside of Israel in our little circle of us.
(We have more luck with the soccer teams themselves, which all seem to be named הפועל / hapoel or מכבי / makabi, so you just have to make up the name of a city.)
More categories of “famous” people who have stumped us in the trivia questions:
- Famous Israeli mayors
- Famous Israeli singers
- Famous Israeli soldiers
- Famous Israeli actors
- Famous Israeli writers
Yup, we come away from the trivia feeling like bad Israelis, except when we get a question like, “Where is the largest zoo in the world?” (Toronto) and “What’s the capital of Ontario?” (Toronto).
(Actually, we messed that last one up, but NOT because Toronto isn’t famous!)
I figure Israelis with a strong Israeli ego are in for a serious letdown when they discover how very non-famous their home country generally is. If stuff here isn’t blowing up, people in chu”l don’t know about it.
And yet, weirdly, Israelis love to travel.
There are only two travel destinations, naturally. When someone mentions that they’re planning a vacation, you can ask them all about it: “Where are you going? Israel or chu”l?”
Yup, those two places.
Right now, two of my kids are in chu”l, so I’m feeling the divide very keenly.
But in a few days, we’ll be there, too. Visiting family in chu”l, you know, and doing all those chu”lish things that go along with it. I don’t remember what: drinking superior Starbucks coffee and eating inferior chu”ldike food. Staring forlornly at the non-kosher food courts everywhere we go.
And also… wondering why these chu”lniks have so little pride.
Why don’t they get together? Make up a flag and an anthem? Celebrate their chu”l identity? They could even set aside Yom Ha’Atzma’ut, with parades, and of course, the day off school, as the “Birth of Chu”l Day.”
Yup, chu”l may be a viable travel destination… but it’s definitely no place like home.
Hebrew Abbreviations – to chu”l and beyond
By the way, if you’re curious about these “choopchik” (double quote) abbreviations, you should know that they will eventually drive you crazy. Just when you think you’ve made your way through a newspaper article, you’ll discover a “yoo”r” who did something, or a “ramatka”l” who said something else to the “roha”m.”
What do they all stand for? We may never know.
But to get you off to a good start, here are just a few that you’ll encounter every day:
|חו”ל = חוץ לארץ||chu”l = chutz la’aretz||Outside of Israel|
|ba”am (still haven’t figured out what it stands for!)||Limited, Ltd. (as in a company name)|
|בי"ס = בית ספר||beit sefer||School|
|אחה"צ = אחרי הצהריים||acharei hatzaharayim||Afternoon|
|א"י = ארץ ישראל||eretz Yisrael||Land of Israel|
|ח"כ = חבר כנסת||chaveir Knesset||Knesset member|
|יו"ר = יושב ראש||yosheiv rosh||CEO, chair|
|רמטכ"ל = ראש מטה כללי||ramatka”l||Head of the army|
|שב"כ = שרות ביטחון כללי||shaba”k||General security force = the dreaded “shin bet”|
|רוה"מ= ראש הממשלה||rosh hamemshala||Prime Minister|
|בע"ה = בעזרת השם||be’ezrat Hashem||With God’s help|
Can you think of any more essential abbreviations? Please help me out by leaving them in the Comments.