Glossary for The Lonely Tree

The terms below appear in The Lonely Tree.

Hebrew. Father.

Arabic. Colorless, unsweetened, aniseed-flavored, distilled alcoholic drink produced and consumed in the eastern Mediterranean and North African countries.

Jews descended from the medieval Jewish communities of the Rhineland Valley in Germany and northern France. Large Ashkenazi communities formed in Russia, Lithuania, Poland, Hungary, and other Eastern European countries. They traditionally speak Yiddish and are distinguished from the Sephardic Jews, who originated from the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal) and the Maghreb (Northern Africa). Large Sephardic communities formed in Holland, Greece and Turkey. The Sephardim include the descendants of the Jews expelled from Spain in 1492. Many speak Ladino. In Israel Jews from Yemen, Iraq, Iran, and other non-European countries are also called Sephardim.

Menahem Begin was the leader of the Irgun. In February 1944 he declared a revolt against the British Mandate authorities. After Israel’s War of Independence, he was elected to the first Knesset and then to every Knesset afterwards, serving as the leader of the opposition until his election as Israel’s  6th Prime Minister in 1977. In 1983 he resigned and withdrew from public life.

Filled puff pastries.

British Mandate
After World War I a number of League of Nations mandates were established for the administration of areas of the defunct Ottoman Empire.  Under this system, Britain ruled Palestine from 1920 to 1948. The Preamble to the British Mandate stated that:
"Whereas the Principal Allied Powers have also agreed that the Mandatory should be responsible for putting into effect the declaration originally made on November 2nd, 1917, by the Government of His Britannic Majesty [refers to the Balfour Declaration], and adopted by the said Powers, in favor of the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, it being clearly understood that nothing should be done which might prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country."
However, the British, though committed by the Mandate to the establishment of a Jewish National Home, had also made conflicting promises to various Arab leaders. In 1922 Britain removed Transjordan from the area intended for the Jewish National Home and installed Abdullah to rule over the newly created Kingdom of Jordan. The British Mandate for Palestine ended when the United Nations voted to partition Palestine into two states, one Jewish and one Arab. David Ben Gurion declared the independent State of Israel, the armies of five Arab countries invaded, and Israel’s War of Independence began.

Yiddish. Grandmother. Sometimes spelled Bubbeh.

Shortly before sundown on Friday, religious Jewish families gather. The women light candles and say a blessing over them to welcome the beginning of the Sabbath.

The city of Haifa is built on the slopes of Mount Carmel.

In 1939 Britain issued a White Paper that limited Jewish immigration to Palestine to a total of 75,000 over the next five years (10,000 each year and an additional 25,000 for refugee emergencies). Only Jews who received a Certificate could enter Palestine legally as part of that quota. In December of 1942 when the extermination of the Jews of Europe became public knowledge, 34,000 Certificates remained unused, as the British refused to  issue them

Community of Abraham
A group of young Jewish men and women in East Galicia, Poland who formed a community, in order to emigrate to Eretz Israel together and establish a religious kibbutz. Many members of the group lived as a community in Poland prior to emigration, so they could learn Hebrew, the rudiments of agriculture, and other skills they would require. The Community of Abraham (Kvutzat Avraham in Hebrew) belonged to Hapoel Hamizrachi, an organization of Orthodox Jews that combined Socialist ideals with Zionist aspirations and adopted the mottos "Torah and Work" and "The People of Israel, the Torah of Israel, and the Land of Israel". Unlike ultra-Orthodox Jews – who were opposed to the Zionist movement and believed that the Jews must wait for God to return them to Eretz Israel – Hapoel Hamizrachi believed it was not only allowed for Jews to seek practical ways to help lead to their own redemption, but that Jews cannot fully observe God’s commandments anywhere but Eretz Israel. They also believed in cooperating with secular Zionist movements.

Cus emakh
Arabic curse. Refers to a very specific part of the anatomy of the mother of the one being cursed.

German. Task Force. Mobile killing squads that followed behind the Wehrmacht during its invasion of Russia (Operation Barbarossa). In the newly occupied areas these squads systematically murdered the entire Jewish population, as well as Soviet political activists.

Eretz Israel
Hebrew. The Land of Israel.

Es salaam aleikum
Arabic greeting. May peace be unto you.

Hebrew abbreviation for Gdudei No’ar – Youth Battalions. A paramilitary organization to prepare youth for military service. The Gadna was created shortly before Israel’s Declaration of Independence and its first participants served as combatants, actively participating in the War of Independence, especially in Jerusalem.

Arabic. Also spelled Jellabiya or Gelibiyeh. A traditional long, loose, ankle-length Arab dress. For men it is of simple fabric, striped or plain colored.

Good Shabbes
Have a good Sabbath, using the Yiddish Shabbes instead of the Hebrew Shabbat.

Hebrew for Defense. A Jewish paramilitary organization active during the period of the British Mandate. The Haganah was established when the British authorities failed to protect the Jewish community during Arab riots in 1920 and 1921, as well as from the isolated attacks of Arab gangs. The original units of the Haganah were local and lacked national coordination. Following the 1929 Arab riots, the Haganah grew in size and became increasingly national in nature. Though it was never granted official recognition by the British authorities, it cooperated with them during the Arab riots of 1936 and 1939. The Haganah adopted a policy of restraint whereby it took only defensive actions and did not launch counter attacks. It was also opposed to attacking British installations as a way of pressuring the British to allow Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany to enter Palestine. This restraint led to the rise of the Irgun Tzvai Leumi (National Military Organization) or just the Irgun – another Jewish paramilitary organization that believed that in order for Jews to protect themselves they must first mount an effective offense. The two organizations became bitterly opposed to one another, and this conflict culminated in The Season, also called The Hunting Season, after Irgun activists assassinated Lord Moyne in Cairo in 1944. During The Season the Haganah kidnapped and interrogated Irgun activists and turned them over to British authorities for deportation or imprisonment.

Hebrew. Telling. A Jewish religious text that tells the story of the Exodus from Egypt and is read during the Passover Seder. All Jews are commanded to tell their sons about the liberation of the Jews from slavery in Egypt.

Hebrew. Praise. A Jewish prayer of praise and thanksgiving that is said on holidays. It is a recitation of Psalms 113-118.

Type of circle dance that originated in the Balkans. In Palestine it was popular in the kibbutzim and other small communities. In Israel today it is still danced at religious weddings and other celebrations, though many consider it old-fashioned.

Hebrew. Mother.

Jewish Agency
The Jewish Agency for Palestine was established in 1923 to represent and administer the Jewish community in Palestine during the Mandate. Its members were elected by Jews all over the world. After the establishment of the State of Israel, its name was changed to the Jewish Agency for Israel and it became responsible for Jewish immigration to Israel and the absorption into Israeli society of Jews from the Diaspora.

Jewish National Fund
Organization founded in 1901 to buy and develop land for Jewish settlement in Palestine.

Aramaic. Holy. The name of a central prayer in the Jewish prayer service. The phrase ‘saying Kaddish’ refers to the recitation of the Mourners’ Kaddish, which is part of every service but is said by mourners (those who have recently lost a parent, spouse, child, or sibling) specifically for the deceased loved one. Mourners say the Mourners Kaddish daily, in the presence of the congregation, for 30 days (or 11 months in the case of a parent), and then once a  year on the anniversary of the death. This prayer makes no mention of death, but praises the greatness and goodness of God. 

Arabic. Sometimes spelled keffiyeh or keffiyah. Traditional headdress worn by Arab men, consisting of a square of cotton cloth that can be folded and wrapped around the head in various ways.

Hebrew. Plural – kibbutzim. A collective (originally solely agricultural) community, combining Socialist and Zionist ideology. The kibbutzim held the means of production in common, assigned their members to work schedules, and allotted them egalitarian budgets for perceived needs, rather than paying them scaled salaries for work performed. In most kibbutzim the children, including babies, slept together in children’s houses. The kibbutz movement, though only a small percent of the population, played a significant role in the establishment and defense of the Jewish community. Today most kibbutzim are undergoing a process of privatization.
Kibbutznik – member of a kibbutz. Plural – kibbutznikim.

German and Yiddish. Children.

Yiddish . To complain. 

Hebrew. The evening prayer service.

A traditional Yemenite dish of fried puff pastry, usually served with a sauce of freshly grated tomatoes and hard-boiled eggs.

From the Hebrew for Fortress. Also spelled Metzada. A site of ancient palaces and fortifications built on an isolated rock plateau on the eastern edge of the Judean Desert overlooking the Dead Sea. Masada was built by Herod the Great in 37-31 BCE as a refuge, in case of revolt. After the beginning of the first Jewish-Roman war and the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, a group of Jewish rebels and their families retreated to Masada and used it as a base for raiding Roman settlements. In 72 CE Flavius Silva laid siege to the fortress, building a huge circumvention wall and a ramp. When the Romans breached the walls in the spring of 73 CE they found that the 960 Jews of Masada had set the buildings on fire and committed mass suicide rather than surrender to the Romans. Only two women and five children had hidden in a cistern and survived. Since Jewish law forbids suicide, the men had each killed their own families and then drawn lots among them to determine who would kill the other men, until only one man actually had to take his own life.
Masada has been extensively excavated and is a popular tourist site. When Moshe Dayan was Chief of Staff he initiated the practice of swearing in new soldiers on Masada, declaring ‘Masada will not fall again.’

Mazal Tov
Yiddish and Hebrew. Congratulations. Literally Good Luck.

The quorum (usually 10 men over 13) required for the performance of certain Jewish religious obligations, most notably public prayer.

Hebrew. Settlement, village. Plural – moshavim. Cooperative agricultural community of independent farms.

Mr. Begin
Menahem Begin was the leader of the Irgun. In February 1944 he declared a revolt against the British Mandate authorities. After Israel’s War of Independence, he was elected to the first Knesset and then to every Knesset afterwards, serving as the leader of the opposition until his election as Israel’s  6th Prime Minister in 1977. In 1983 he resigned and withdrew from public life.

Arabic. Recognized head of a village.

Acronym for the Hebrew words Plugot Machatz – strike force.
Palmachnik – member of the Palmach.
The Palmach, established in May 1941, was the main fighting force of the Haganah. The British military helped train and equip the Palmach soldiers, as they were to help protect Palestine from the threat of Nazi invasion and to help free Syria and Lebanon from Vichy French forces. However, after the Allied victory at El Alamein in 1943 the British declared the Palmach illegal and it went underground.
With British funding no longer available, it was decided to support the Palmach by having its members work in the kibbutzim. Each kibbutz would host a platoon, and the Palmachniks would help guard the kibbutz and perform agricultural work.
Following statehood, the Palmach was disbanded and its members formed the backbone of the Israel Defense Forces. Many prominent Israelis, including Moshe Dayan, Itzhak Rabin, and Yigal Allon, belonged to the Palmach.

German and Yiddish. Hour of sleep or afternoon nap.

Arabic. Gang.

Hebrew. Sabbath. The Jewish Sabbath is Saturday. According to Jewish law, days begin at sundown and end the following sundown. Therefore, the Sabbath begins at sundown on Friday and ends when three stars are visible in the sky on Saturday night.

Shabbat Bar Mitzvah
Jewish boys become Bar Mitzvah (responsible for their actions and for performing the commandments required by the Torah) at the age of 13. They then participate in the Sabbath prayer service as an adult for the first time and are called to read the Torah portion for that week.

Hebrew. Morning light. The morning prayer service.

Hebrew. Seven. Refers to the seven days of mourning required by Jewish law of the seven first-degree relatives (mother, father, son, daughter, brother, sister, spouse) of the deceased. Immediately upon burial (which takes place if possible within one day of death) the family members gather in a home (preferably that of the deceased) and receive visitors.

Shiva Call
Condolence call paid on someone in mourning.

Yiddish. "A shlemiel is a person who often spills his soup. A shlimazel is the person the soup lands on."

Sh’ma Israel or Shema Israel
Hebrew. Hear O Israel.  The first two words of a section of the Torah that is central to the morning and evening prayer service. The first paragraph of this section is also recited before going to bed. The entire first line of the prayer is ‘Hear O Israel, the Lord is Our G-d, the Lord Is One’. It is considered to be the most important prayer and it is traditional for it to be the last words a Jew utters before death.

Hebrew. Eighteen. Refers to the central prayer of the Jewish liturgy which consists of eighteen blessings. It is recited at each of the three daily services. It is also called the Amidah (Hebrew for standing) as it is recited while standing, facing Jerusalem (or if in Jerusalem, facing the site of the Temple).

Yiddish. Snitch.

Arabic. Thank you.

Hebrew. Jewish prayer book.

Hebrew. Phylacteries. Two black leather boxes with leather straps. These boxes contain scrolls of parchment with verses from the Torah. Jewish men wear tefillin while reciting the weekday morning prayers, one on the upper arm and one on the forehead.

The Temple Society. Not to be confused with the Knights Templar. This German Protestant sect aimed to realize the apocalyptic visions of the prophets of Israel in the Holy Land. They established their first colony in Palestine near Haifa in 1868. This was followed by several other colonies – Sarona near Jaffa, the German Colony in Jerusalem, Wilhelma, Valhalla, Bethlehem of Galilee, and Waldheim. At their height there were 2,200 Templars in Palestine. During the 1930s they established Nazi youth movements and many of them joined the German army. 17% of the Templars in Palestine were members of the Nazi party. In 1939 the British declared them enemy aliens. 1000 Templars from Palestine were exchanged for 550 Jews under German control.

Hebrew. The first five books of the Bible.

Wa aleikum es salaam
Arabic. And unto you may there be peace. Response to the greeting ‘Es salaam aleikum’ – May peace be unto you

Arabic. A valley or a dry river bed that contains water only during heavy rains. 

A Jewish defense organization in Palestine that ceased to operate after the Haganah was established.

Hebrew slang. Yemenite. 

Scull cap or Kipah in Hebrew. Sometimes spelled yamaka. Small beanie-like cap worn on the back of the head by Orthodox Jewish men. This cap serves as a sign of respect for God and recognition that its wearer submits to the will of a greater power above.

Yiddish for German. Also used by Israelis to describe someone who is overly pedantic and finnicky.

Hebrew. Settlement. Term used for the Jewish residents of Palestine before the establishment of the State of Israel.