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Things that are weird in Israel #8: Plus Signs


There’s a classic Jewish joke about a boy who was failing math. His parents tried everything and finally enrolled him in a Catholic school.  His grades picked up almost immediately.  Curious, his parents interrogated him as to the secret of the nuns’ success.  Was it the tutoring?  The texts?  The instruction?  "No", said the boy. "On that first day, when I walked in the front door and saw that guy nailed to the plus sign, I knew they meant business!"

So here, at least in some places, they don’t have a guy nailed to the plus sign… nor do they have regular plus signs at all.

Here are two typical pages from one of Naomi Rivka’s math texts this year:



Notice what’s different? 

The plus sign is missing its bottom “stick” – making it an inverted T, which Wikipedia says is used more in elementary than in secondary schools (perhaps because many Haredi kids don’t learn math beyond the elementary level?).   Here’s what Wikipedia says:

The usual explanation for this practice is that it avoids the writing of a symbol "+" that looks like a Christian cross.[16] Unicode has this symbol at position U+FB29 ﬩ hebrew letter alternative plus sign.[17]

I don’t know if the regular plus sign is “forbidden by law,” as some of the more rabid anti-Jewish sites claim.  (From one post – don’t read on if you’re easily offended! –  “The word “Kike” derives from the propensity Eastern European Jews had to write a circle (Yiddish. “kikel”) instead of a cross (“X”) on immigration papers, when entering the US at Ellis Island in Upper New York Bay early last century… So it’s not surprising to find the Kikes refuse to allow the use of the plus sign (“+”) on a computer keyboard in schools and universities in the antichristian, apartheid state of Israel.”)

I do know that our two older kids attended religious schools all the way through and there was never an issue using regular plus signs.  So this is something new to me, but I don’t think I have strong feelings about it one way or another.  It seems like it would be slightly harder to draw the inverted-T plus sign, but then again, with practice, it probably wouldn’t take longer than the regular one.

I would suspect it’s not a law, but a practice designed to avoid offending the Haredim… while not overly inconveniencing anyone else along the way.   It’s not like kids aren’t going to know what a regular plus sign is, even if they use the “frum” one for math class.

However – while I don’t have strong feelings about this particular plus sign, the “not inconveniencing anyone else” thing can turn into the kind of political correctness I do object to… especially when it comes to bowing to the demands of Israel’s increasing Haredi populations.

I think as long as it’s not mandatory, I don’t have a problem with it.  But I’m not going out of my way to start using it myself.

Here in our religious neighbourhood, the pizza shop across the street, Pizza Plus, would certainly not want to be identified with such a controversial symbol as a CROSS – so this is their logo:


And here’s a “one-plus-one” ad from another blog post about this phenomenon (it’s from a Hebrew-Christian blog, so although I want to give credit, I don’t want to link directly.  You’ll find the address below the picture if you really want to read their post.):


(photo credit:

However, although “one-plus-one” is a common sales tactic here (it’s known as BOGO, “buy one get one,” in some English-speaking places), I haven’t personally seen a sign like this one anywhere.

What do you think????

Is this “new” plus sign silly… or meaningful, in some way, to help our kids focus on more appropriate symbols?


  1. I don't think this has anything to do with haredi. In 1962, when I came to Israel, I was told it was in order not to remind Israelis who had undergone pogroms (in the Holocaust or before) of the cross.

  2. this has nothing whatsoever to do with chareidim, totally secular school textbooks have plus signs that look like that. The secular establishment is not generally very accomodating of the religious, dati leumi or otherwise unless it serves some purpose.

  3. Interesting. I'd consider Naomi Rivka's text to be totally secular as well, but figured they did it that way so it could be adopted nationwide, even in religious areas. Also, it struck me as odd that only here in (religious) KShmu is there a plus sign like this on a (badatz) pizza place, and not on any other type of shop I've seen throughout the (very non-religious) krayot region.

    There WAS an article in the Forward (not all that authoritative!), in 2005, saying, "the arithmetic textbooks of the Israeli ministry of education have, under Orthodox pressure, lopped off the top of the plus sign, too!" Sounds a little hysterical to me; I'm happy either way...

  4. Here in Israel, I learned the ﬩ sign as the regular plus sign in the sixties, when I was studying in elementary school. Only later I was taught the + sign. No religious explanation was ever used. My children, however (born in 1994, 2005) never learned this sign.

    According to Wikipedia, the Jewish practice of using this sign to avoid the use of a cross-like symbol dates back at least to the 19th century.

    Interestingly, Newsweek magazine published that ISIS in Syria ban the use of the + sign in elementary schools as a Christian symbol. They use v the letter Z instead.


I'd love to hear what you have to say.