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What's in an Israeli name?

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Tower of BabelCultureSocietyPoliticsLifestyle

If you have any Israeli friends on your facebook lists, there's a good chance you're slightly confused in recent months as to who exactly they are, as their last names have morphed into new, confusing, and sometimes rather long ones. The inspiration was a Hebrew-speaking 'event', initially planned for a week, which has since been extended until May 2013

The or­gan­is­ers of the face­book event ‘Melt­ing down the melt­ing pot: Re­cov­er­ing the lost names!’ have a pretty mis­sion: ‘Change your re­done He­brew fam­ily name on face­book to the pre­vi­ous last names of your fa­ther's and mother's fam­ily: whether it was a clerk at the jew­ish agency or a school teacher who changed your name; whether it was changed out of shame or fear of racism; whether it was due to a fam­ily feud, vol­un­tar­ily, fol­low­ing kab­balah stud­ies; whether it's your pen name – for a week [now ex­tended] we re­trieve the lost name and tell its story.’

Facebook event imageOver 1, 000 peo­ple have joined the ini­tia­tive, which res­onates with de­scen­dants of holo­caust sur­vivors, Ara­bic jews and sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion im­mi­grants alike. The re­quire­ment for ‘He­brew’ names, which many en­coun­tered upon ar­rival, is a sub­ject es­pe­cially painful for im­mi­grants from Ara­bic and east­ern Eu­ro­pean coun­tries, whose names were - and, in the case of Russ­ian-speak­ers, still are - often forcibly changed upon ar­rival. One fel­low, Amos Bar, be­came ‘Amos Shlomo Bili­bil-Stock’ on face­book. ‘Bil­bil is the Turk­ish name of the Bul­bul bird, which is also why my grand­fa­ther didn't he­brai­cize his name,’ he says; bul­bul is He­brew slang for male gen­i­talia. ‘The sec­ond part of the in­vented sur­name, Stock, means stick. Grandpa ac­tu­ally he­brai­cized that, to Sharvit, and then every­one thought he was of ori­en­tal de­scent. Bar is a name my par­ents made up after my mother re­fused to be Mrs. Bil­bil. I hereby use this stage to kick its be­hind. Shlomo is my sec­ond name, after my grand­fa­ther's fa­ther, who died six months be­fore I was born. And he was ac­tu­ally named Zeide.’

Image: (cc) Anger­Boy/ Flickr