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Kill or be killed… ?


Nope, nothing to do with the “matzav” (current situation).

Sorry if you clicked through because of that.

Nope, if you know anything about me, it’s that spelling and grammar mistakes on Israeli signs amuse me to no end. 

Two things about this sign intrigued me. 

(Three if you count our biggest question – what the $#!% is the name of the street we were standing on, with the missing street sign?!?  To this day, we still don’t know.)

Following this post the day before went to Tzfat about the mystery of English place names in Israel, I was reminded by about a million highway signs that the main spelling of the city’s name, in English, is actually Zefat.


Beyond the weird spelling, on the sign up on top, there’s also a subtle grammatical mistake that makes, in this case, all the difference in the world.


This street is named in memory of the 12 22 children of Tzfat (thanks to a reader for pointing out my mistake with the numerology), it says in Hebrew, who were killed in the 1974 massacre in Maalot

But that’s not exactly what it says in English; there, the passive voice has been mangled to an extreme, turning the 12 victims into murderers.

Given the tragedy behind the story, perhaps it’s disrespectful to find fault with something as nitpicky as a translation.  And yet… and yet.  How else are you going to get your nation’s story across, if not with language?  It’s not like there are no English speakers in Tzfat who they could have asked for the proper translation.

I guess my serious point is that if your lousy translations make the history of a place seem clownish or insignificant, there’s a big chunk of visitors who aren’t going to appreciate the important stuff.

By “big chunk,” I mean me.  And others like me.  There must be others like me… right?

Put up your hand:  are you a spelling-and-grammar stickler, too?


  1. kaf bet is the number 22, not 12. Now, there were indeed 22 child victims, but in general if kaf bet stands for a number there would be two "tzuptchicks"
    between the kaf and the bet. instead there is only one "tzuptchick", and it is after both letters,
    which means it is a shortened word, in this case a shortening of the word "kvish", road.
    And the translation is bizarre, it is neither "road" (for kvish) nor "22" for kaf''bet.
    Thus an even stranger translation, for a grand total of two?

    lizabennett aht yahoo

    1. You're right about the gematria. I was waaaay tired when I wrote that. :-)
      I'm sure the intention is 22, not kvish, because it already says rechov. Weirdness upon weirdness.

  2. Before I read this, I read your post on English transliterations of the street signs in Hebrew and I agree with you, any inconsistency or bad grammar is grating to me. I would think there is a standard in transliteration and if there is it should be used on all street signs.

    1. You'd think that would work, but then there's something like the Pasteur sign or "Captain Steve" that wouldn't work with a transliteration standard. I think we need a mix of standardization and intelligence. A girl can dream, right...? :-)

    2. I suppose there is a consensus regarding certain Hebrew letters, such as Tz = Tzadi or Kh = Chet. Words in other languages can speak for themselves. You are right as to the need for intelligence.

    3. Sheldan, I find that actually "Z" is more common for tzadi, which annoys me to no end. There's a street here called ארץ הצבי which is transliterated "erez hazevi". Why is the Z doing double duty? I have no idea.

  3. Oy! That's really horrible! As you know, these kinds of mistranslations usually crack me up, but this one is definitely NOT funny... :-(

    1. Not funny, I agree. I did say it "intrigued" me, not "amused" me. It was not a ha-ha moment, I assure you. But I was intrigued enough that I googled it and found out about the massacre, and linked to it here. I do appreciate the way these signs try to give more information, just wish they would consult with one of the thousands of native English speakers who live here and who'd be happy to help.


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