Hebrew Hear-Say: Newsspeak

War brings out the best and worst in people and members of the press are no exception.

Hebrew Hear-Say logo (photo credit: )
Hebrew Hear-Say logo
(photo credit: )
There's good news ('besorot tovot') and bad news ('besorot ra'ot'). When it comes to The News ('Hahadashot') you might not be getting either. The full picture ('tmuna mele'a') often lies between the lines ('bein hashurot'). This is particularly evident in times of war ('milhama') or a military operation ('mivtza tzva'i'), which can be a war by another - catchy - name and means the government doesn't have to budget so much financial aid to the civilians caught up in it. (I mean the Israeli civilians, whose story ['sipur'] you might have missed if you've been relying on foreign coverage of recent events.) At the beginning of Operation Cast Lead ('Mivtza Oferet Yetzuka'), a new immigrant from France caught me making "bad news" clicking noises during radio bulletin describing "'hilufei esh kvedim'" (a heavy exchange of fire). "That doesn't sound good, does it?" she remarked, unaware of just how bad it sounded. It is an open secret ('sod galui') that if a report like that does not state "'ein nifga'im lechohotenu'" ("there were no casualties to our forces"), there's a good - or rather a bad - reason: It usually means that time is needed to inform the families of the fallen. When it comes to the air force, a success is marked with the statement "'kol metosenu shavu b'shalom'" - all our planes returned safely. Until you hear that code phrase, we're still talking about the "wing and a prayer" stage. There is often much discussion in times like these about the media being mobilized ('tikshoret meguyeset') in the war effort. Certainly, language-wise the press uses a lot of those first person plural "'-nu'" endings: our forces, our planes, our reporters ('katavenu'). This latest campaign (or mini-war) seems to have been marked by an unusual degree of solidarity among the Israeli press (with the notable exception of 'Haaretz''s Gideon Levy, whose "'nu, nu, nu'" style condemning Israel has itself become the subject for discussion). War, of course, brings out the best and worst in people and members of the press are no exception. Journalists don't work in an office ('misrad') but a newsroom ('ma'arechet'), but obviously the media ('klei tikshoret') prefer to report from the field. In Cast Lead, "The Field" was off limits (and you can argue among yourselves if this is a matter of censorship - 'tzenzura' - or a sensible precaution given that Hamas has in the past shown a tendency to kidnap journalists and has yet to give back Gilad Schalit for all it claims to want to get every last IDF soldier out of Gaza). As a result we have seen a great many reports from kibbutz fields on the border. These reports are often sprinkled with another expression you need to know and understand: 'mekorot' are sources. 'Mekorot yodei davar' are sources in the know. 'Makor bachir' is a senior source and is usually a code for a minister or above. A very senior source ('makor bachir meod') is usually the prime minister in person. When the war is really over - or at least we get back to what passes as normality around here - the media will probably determine new pressing issues and then you'll hear "Mekorot" referring to the national water company. The lack of rain this season is such a source of concern that the weather report ('tahatzit mezeg ha'avir') has occasionally combined with the military commentary ('parshanut'): At least one retired general at the beginning of the campaign reminded television viewers that "the country needs the rain but not the clouds" which hamper air force operations. You can also tell a lot from Hebrew traffic updates ('idkun tnua'). One sign the war was coming to an end was the closure of the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway allowing all the high-ranking visitors to safely travel from the airport to the capital. When a president or premier arrives, a press conference is sure to follow. This is known in Hebrew as a "journalists' party" - 'mesibat itona'im' although I've rarely seen a journalist enjoy one. The later it gets, the less enthusiasm there is. Deadlines are killers. Nowadays, of course, print journalists with their nightly deadlines are themselves a dying breed. In the Internet age, there is a worldwide news machine which needs feeding all the time. We've all come a long way since people silently read their papers over breakfast to the present habit of "talking back" 24 hours a day. The Hebrew 'tguvit', however, has yet to win the battle over the word "talkback." liat@jpost.com