Hebrew word of the week: Citizen

The English word “citizen” is derived from Latin civitas “city” (compare to Spanish ciudad). However, the Hebrew ezraH does not have any connection to ‘ir “city” or medinah “city-state,” but rather to the root z-r-H “shine, scatter rays,”* closely related to z-r-‘ “sow, scatter grains”; z-r-y “scatter, winnow (grains); z-r-q “throw, scatter.” In the Bible, they may alternate: or zarua‘ la-tsadiq light is “sown/shone for the righteous.” (Psalms 97:11).

So, ezraH is a native, home-born plant (as in ezraH ra‘anan “robust native-tree,” Psalms 37:35) or person (ha-ezrah ve-hagger) “the citizen and the alien” (Leviticus 16:29).

*Aleph is just a prefix, as (e)zroa‘ “arm”; efroaH “chick.” However, in modern Hebrew, aleph becomes a part of a new root: ’-z-r-H “naturalize, make citizen”; ezraHut “citizenship.”

Yona Sabar is a professor of Hebrew and Aramaic in the department of Near Eastern Languages & Cultures at UCLA.

Stoudemire seeking Israeli citizenship

Amar’e Stoudemire, the New York Knicks star who claims Hebrew roots and is currently touring Israel, is seeking Israeli citizenship.

Stoudemire’s agent, Happy Walters, told New York magazine that the Knicks’ power forward is in the process of becoming an Israeli.

“He’s getting citizenship,” Walters said. ”He applied, and he’s there now.”

Stoudemire went to Israel for the Maccabiah Games as the assistant coach of the Canadian basketball squad. The games ended earlier this week.

Stoudemire’s Jewish connections have been the source of much media fascination in recent months. At hiswedding last year to Alexis Welch, Stoudemire donned a yarmulke and prayer shawl for the “Hebraic” ceremony. In July, he announced he had become a part owner in the Israeli basketball club Hapoel Jerusalem. And in an exclusive interview in Jerusalem last month with JTA, Stoudemire said he is in regular dialogue with New York rabbis, studies Torah and observes the High Holidays.

“I’m not a religious person, I’m more of a spiritual person, so I follow the rules of the Bible that coordinate with and connect with the Hebrew culture,” Stoudemire told JTA.

Lebanon sentences Israel spies to death

A Lebanese military court sentenced three of the country’s citizens to death for spying for Israel.

Two of the alleged spies had fled the country, reportedly for Israel, and were sentenced in absentia.  The third man, Jawdat el-Hakim, admitted to working for Israel for 10 years beginning in 1999, Ynet reported.

The men can appeal the sentence to a higher court.