|Avdat in the Negev: my dream?|
As part of that short-lived dream, however, I studied Hebrew for at least one year. I studied Arabic too, for less time, but I never took to that language. Hebrew, though: I loved Hebrew. I loved my teacher, for one thing—whose name, sadly, I no longer remember, but she was funny and fun and encouraging. I loved the sound of Hebrew, too, a sort of swishy, gurgly, roundly flowing sound. The grammar was interesting. The very history of the language was interesting, it having been revived by the new nation of Israel (well, it's precursors: the Zionists—and among them specifically, Eliezer Ben-Yehuda [1858–1922]).
Since then, of course, I've forgotten virtually everything. I can say "I don't speak Hebrew" (אני לא מדברת עברית : it's read right to left, and sounds like aní lo m'dabéret ivrít). Today my taxi driver refreshed me on right, left, and straight ahead (yamín, smol, and yashár).
While out on my second walk of the day around Tel Aviv, I stopped in a bookstore and bought a phrase book—a complete waste of money, really, but in the spirit of being here and trying, I'm game to give it a short study every night before bed, and maybe every morning too. Just a few words a day. Why not?
I don't know why, but I'm surprised at how little English signage there is here, and what English there is seems rather random. But mostly‐of course!—signs are in Hebrew alone. Which is as good as Greek to me, even though I studied it once it upon a time.
The tricky thing about Hebrew, you see, is that when you are learning it, it has vowels—a system of diacritical marks called niqqud (נִקּוּד), or dotting, that appear around the consonants to indicate how the sounds connecting the consonants, and occasionally the consonants themselves, are pronounced. Children start learning their language with niqqud. The Bible is written with niqqud, probably to allow greater access to people not fluent in Hebrew. All the studying I did was with niqqud. Such that now? I'm lost without the marks. (In the merest sense that with them I'd at least know how to pronounce what I'm seeing, even if understanding would still be a no-go.)
For example: שִׁיר לַמַּעֲלוֹת, אֶשָּׂא עֵינַי אֶל הֶהָרִים מֵאַיִן יָבוֹא עֶזְרֵי vs.
שיר למעלות, אשא עיני אל ההרים מאין יבוא עזרי—see how much easier the first one is to read? Well, maybe you don't. But trust me.
My phrasebook doesn't include niqqud either, just transliterations, but that's close enough.