Behind each of the words and acronyms used in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) is a larger story about the Hebrew language. Below, see some everyday words whose origins began in the IDF.
The IDF was established on May 31, 1948, two weeks after the establishment of the State of Israel. The acronym IDF stands for Israel Defense Forces, and the Hebrew letters stand for Tzva Haganah Le'Yisrael, or, quite literally, Israel Defense Army (צה"ל). It was comprised of several underground organizations and brigades fighting for the independence before 1948, also all acronyms: Palmach (פלמ"ח), Lechi (לח"י) and Etzel (אצ"ל).
Karov la'bayit (קרוב לבית becomes קל״ב, "close to home")
A soldier who serves near home, rather than on a base far from home, is called a kalabnik. People use the word kalabnik to describe someone who might be homesick.
Sheinat tzohora'im (שינת צהריים becomes שנ״צ, "afternoon sleep")
Shnatz is an everyday term that people use to say "short afternoon nap." Its origins are from the IDF, likely out of the necessity for a break.
Sak sheinah (שק שינה becomes שק״ש, "sleeping bag")
Sakash is the word for sleeping bag. It's the combination of "sak" (bag) and "sheina" (sleep), and is used well beyond the IDF.
Tna’ei sherut (תנאי שרות becomes ת״ש, "service conditions")
It translates to "service conditions." Soldiers refer to any benefits they get, from time off to cold drinks, as tash. It's also the word to describe the perk regilah (רגילה), which is six vacation days soldiers receive for every four months.
Chamishi, Shishi, Shabbat (חמישי, שישי, ושבת becomes חמשו״ש, "Thursday, Friday, and Saturday")
Similar to a long weekend in the United States, this refers to getting a long weekend of leave, from Thursday through Saturday night, or a chamshush, and is one of those little things that makes a soldier really happy.Chamshush is merely a combination of the Hebrew words for "Thursday, Friday and Saturday."
Basis Klitah V'miyun (בסיס קליטה ומיון becomes בקו״ם, "Army Induction Base")
The Bakum is the first army base every new draftee visits. It’s the place where new soldiers get their assignments, uniforms and very first introduction to IDF life. Soldiers say the phrase helem bakum (הלם בקו״ם, "Army Induction Base shock" in reference to the feeling displayed by many new recruits of being overwhelmed by the reality of military service.
- Try to put together as many sentences as possible using one or more of the aformentioned words. Once written, have the kids draw a picture or act out their sentences.
- Why do you think the IDF uses acronyms? (Possible answers: a clear distinction between the civilian and military environments, efficiency in times of war, etc.) What are some acronyms that we use in everyday English? Compare and contrast.
- Create your own acronym! Use your educational environment to create acronyms in both Hebrew and English that could describe people, places, things or ideas that are important to your Judaism.