'Enlarge thy baldness as the vulture'

Enlarge thy baldness as

October 22, 2009 18:57
1 minute read.

While the Griffon vulture (nesher) is endangered in Israel, the word "nesher" is ubiquitous, having been adopted by various Israeli enterprises - from beer and cement factories to a taxi company and even a historical airlift. Although nesher designates the "vulture," it often is misinterpreted and mistranslated to indicate the "eagle." In the Bible it is also not clear-cut, and "nesher" is sometimes used for "eagle." Mentioned 26 times in the Bible, "nesher" is similar to the verb nashar (to shed hair). The bald neck is one of the features of the vulture so it can dig in to eat the carrion. The loss of hair is indicated in the book of Micah 1:16: "…enlarge thy baldness as the vulture…" The ayit in the Bible is the "eagle" and is also a generic name for birds of prey. "Ayit" is derived from the Hebrew verb - to pounce. The sea eagle - one of whose species is the national bird and symbol of the United States, the bald eagle - is the eitam - a fusion of ayit and yam (sea). "Nesher" sometimes indicates the "ayit" in the Bible. When recounting the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, the comparison is made (in Exodus 19:4) to the nesher bearing its young on its wings, [al kanfei nesharim], when in reality the vulture does not bear its young this way, and so this verse is translated as "eagle." The airlift of nearly 50,000 Yemenite Jews to the State of Israel in 1949-1950 was known as Operation Magic Carpet or On the Wings of Eagles, based on the above verse. In the lyrical style in the portion of "Ha'azinu," reference is made to the nesher hovering over its young chicks (gozalav), when in reality the vulture has only one egg at a time. Perhaps in the last two examples, "nesher" is used figuratively and not for scientific classification purposes.

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