Hebrew Hear-Say: Feel free

The more free time (zman hofshi) you have, the less gets done.

The hofesh hagadol is nearly over. One parent, obviously spending a little too much time with her offspring, used an incredibly Israeli phrase to moan that the summer vacation is "aroch kmo galut" (long, like the exile) but I've been enjoying more quality time (zman eichut) with my son. Time flies - or in Hebrew: hazman ratz (time runs) - when you're enjoying yourself. But it's amazing how the more free time (zman hofshi) you have, the less gets done. In fact, the whole concept of the words "time" and "free" changes during holidays. How many events advertise "free entrance" (knisa hofshit) knowing it's not going to cost people to get in, but just try getting out without spending money as well as time. Not only children have been taking a break (pesek zman). As we noted in the previous column, in the global village the Olympics (Olympiada) seem to be just that much closer to home wherever they are held. All around the world people are discussing the way the Chinese put on an incredible show, at the same time giving a whole different connotation to the phrase child's play (mis'hak yeladim) with a team whose ages seem as flexible as their bodies. The Games provided the average Israeli with the perfect opportunity to compete in our national sport: complaining. The fewer winners, the more whiners (kuterim). A taxi driver whose idea of sport seemed to be trying his luck at jumping the lights, groaned about our lack of success in everything from pole vaulting to judo. Naturally, he blamed the government - another national sport - and declared it shameful (busha) that the Israeli athletes don't receive more financial support. You'd probably have to be a strong man indeed to stand up to the winning smile - hiuch kovesh - of Israeli artistic gymnast Irina Risenzon, but had the cabinet suddenly declared increased funding for Olympic contestants, the taxi driver would undoubtedly be among the many complaining that the money would be better spent elsewhere - on education, for example. Education (hinuch) is a buzzword at the moment, partly because of the start of the school year (t'hilat shnat halimudim) and partly because it sounds good in election campaigns. While it's not clear when elections (behirot) will be held, the race is on just as surely as the Beijing Olympics are over. And then - democracy being such a wonderful thing - we can start on another local pastime, toppling the government that we just freely elected. Being free (hofshi) carries a price. We can't just give the government a free hand (yad hofshit) to do as it pleases - hofshi, hofshi, without any limits. Running the country is a serious business - although politicians often play for time (mesahek al zman). Clearly elections won't be held until after that unique Israel time frame - aharei hahagim/I>: after the holidays. These feel almost imminent (ototo, as they say around here), but in politics (as they also say around here) two weeks are an eternity (shvu'ayim hem netzah). We are a nation of oxymorons, or at least paradoxes. On the one hand, the country is fast paced: it likes to do things onomatopoeically tchick, tchack or b'tchick. On the other, the phrase "le'at, le'at" - slowly, slowly - or its Arabic form, shwaya, shwaya, is as common as the "aharei hahagim." As a state, we tend to leave things to "hadaka hatishim," (literally: the 90th minute, but used as the 11th hour) so that everything becomes "urgent" (dahuf). Shum davar lo bo'er (there's no fire) goes the popular phrase - meaning there's no reason to rush. But the last minute - hadaka ha'aharona - is, after all, only a matter of time - inyan shel zman. It seems time, like Olympic swimmers and runners, has speeded up in today's world. Just as the concept of real time (zman emet) is more real than ever, the idea of just standing with a stopwatch (la'amod im stopper) is ancient history in the technological era. Perhaps it's not such a bad thing after all to live in a part of the world where the first word you hear as you land at the airport is "rega." Just a minute. In fact, the word "rega" is such a part of our lives we have dumbed it down into a silent gesture, holding the thumb against the first two fingers. It's probably healthier to take things a bit slower. Feel free (targish hofshi) to take things at your own pace. There's time: yesh zman. [email protected]