the 90th minute

Until September 2007, when my oldest daughter was born, this blog covered daily life and politics in Israel, as well as Hebrew-English linguistic issues, from the perspective of an American-raised journalist and translator living in Israel. Now it mostly serves as the SmunchMonk&Bear news agency, a portal into the bizarre universe of the little people. Read more at:

Monday, September 11, 2006

The Sunshine State of Gaza

This blog was first posted July 7, 2005, on Haaretz Underground. Slight changes have been made to the original post.

For obvious reasons, coverage of last week's evacuation of the Gaza Strip hotel-turned-outpost centered on the disengagement plan and opposition to it. But let us not forget the all-important issue of identity - in other words, what to call the rundown hotel?

Even in Hebrew the question has more than one answer. Right-wing activists moved into what Israelis call the "Hof Dekalim" hotel in the Gaza settlement of Neveh Dekalim to protest the pullout. Then the hotel residents declared their abode an outpost they decided to call "Maoz Yam," also known as "Maoz Hayam."

So far, only three options. But that's before we tackle the English version.

The two major English-language wire services, The Associated Press and Reuters, seem to have confused the Gaza Strip with Florida. After all, there's sand, there's sea - and there's the Palm Beach Hotel, the literal translation of "Malon Hof Dekalim."

Other options include translating only the word "malon" and going with "Hof Dekalim Hotel," or translating the two more common words in the name, leaving us with "Dekalim Beach Hotel." I lean toward the latter option, which retains the original sound but translates the most relevant words.

I have heard tell, however, of a sign outside the Neveh Dekalim hotel - as Haaretz sometimes calls it in a bit of a copout - that gives the name in English as Palm Beach Hotel. If that is the case, then the wire services can be forgiven for their literalism, since institutions, like people, have the right to decide their own names in whatever language they choose.

But what about the right-wing activists' decision to change the name of the hotel to Maoz Yam/Maoz Hayam?

The CNN Web site replicated (one version of) the Hebrew name, saying in an article from June 30, the day the hotel was evacuated: "Video showed police and Israeli soldiers hauling screaming protesters from the Maoz Yam hotel in Neveh Dekalim."

The Washington Post, on the other hand, applied the lessons of the Sunshine State style used in determining the hotel's original name, writing in a June 2 story: "About 30 families have moved into the former Palm Beach Hotel, renamed Strength of the Sea by its new occupiers."

The Jerusalem Post settled for using the Hebrew name along with its English translation, which differs from the one the Washington Post chose. "The radicals had barricaded themselves in the Gush Katif hotel, which they called Maoz Hayam, or the Seaside Fortress," it wrote on June 30.

Perhaps the switch to Seaside Fortress, or any other variant of the name, was a tactical mistake on the part of those who briefly lived there. After all, if elderly Floridian Jews could accidentally vote for Pat Buchanan, surely they might have been persuaded to vacation at the Hof Dekalim Hotel - even if they did think they were heading for that other Palm Beach.

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