Hebrew word of the week: Hammah (sun, hot)

Words in any language may become obsolete or change in pronunciation and meaning. Moreover, certain names for things or concepts may have one meaning at one time, and another later, such as the English word “groovy” (in the 1970s) and now “cool”; or even assume the opposite meaning, as Hebrew Haval ’al ha-zman, once “waste of time, not good” (until the ’90s); now “great, wonderful.”

Even words such as shemesh “sun,” the common word in the Bible and modern Hebrew, was called Hammah “(the) hot one” in Rabbinical Hebrew.* Even in the Bible, Hammah may, rarely, mean “sun,” but only in Prophetic-Poetic texts, as in Isaiah 24:23; 30:26; Song of Songs 6:10.

‫*Similarly, “moon” in the Bible and modern Hebrew is known as yareaH, but in Rabbinical Hebrew is levanah “(the) white one,” as in birkat ha-levanah “the blessing of the new or full moon.”

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

Yom HaAtzmaut special: California on Hebrew [VIDEO]

California on Purim [VIDEO]

HOLY HADASSAH! France’s First Lady Honored by Women’s Group

PARIS (JTA)—Singer. Model. First lady of France.

Hadassah woman.

Carla Bruni-Sarkozy was the guest of honor March 5 at a glitzy fund-raiser in Paris for Hadassah Medical Organization’s hospital in Jerusalem and its global medical aid programs.

Standing at the podium in a sleeveless, silky black and white dress, she cooed in her trademark soft, husky voice to a crowd wearing glittering couture balanced on needle-thin heels.

“I’m so happy to have kept my promise,” she said.

Bruni-Sarkozy was referring to a visit she paid to the children’s ward of the hemato-oncology department at the Hadassah hospital last June, when she was in Jerusalem as part of her husband’s state visit.

During a tour of the facilities, she told the hospital’s general director, Shlomo Mor-Yosef, that she wanted to help.

Eight months later Bruni-Sarkozy, whose chiseled features and modern elegance continue to fascinate, delivered by becoming the first French first lady to work with Hadassah, the nongovernmental organization founded by American Zionist women nearly a century ago.

Bruni-Sarkozy’s appearance came at a trying period: Israel is wrestling with the fallout from Gaza, French Jews are worried about another spike in anti-Semitism and Hadassah has eliminated dozens of jobs.

In short, it was a good time for any sort of image boost that the 41-year-old first lady could provide.

“The image she conveys can help get rid of this vilifying view of Israel,” the president of Hadassah France, Sydney Ohana, told JTA in an interview. “She weighed the importance of a small country like this and understood that the world needs them, too.”

In December, after a year of sidelining as her husband’s glamorous companion, Bruni-Sarkozy signed on as the good-will ambassador for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

It was under the new job title that Bruni-Sarkozy lent her image to Hadassah’s French branch for its 25th anniversary gala to fund the renowned medical research facility and its successful treatment of orphaned Ethiopian children with AIDS. The child mortality rate under the Ethiopian program has dropped from an annual 25 percent to 1 percent.

But her attachment to the Hadassah flagship hospital began before her Global Fund work, when Mor-Yosef said she dazzled patients and employees who “stood crowded in windows” to see her last summer.

Bruni-Sarkozy, he added, was “very touched” by the child cancer patients she met and “impressed” with the facility, which treats both Palestinians and Jewish Israeli patients.

“That’s just how we do things,” he said. “People come see what we do and they want to help.”

Hadassah’s hospital, which was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2005, already doubles as an ambassador for some of Israel’s humanitarian efforts, but Bruni-Sarkozy’s support was especially timely.

As the global financial crisis and the Madoff scandal gnaw at the organization’s private finances, forcing staffers to take pay cuts that won’t be restored for several years, some overseas groups also have accused Israel of committing war crimes during its winter Gaza offensive.

“In today’s press, Israel has one dimension,” Mor-Yosef said. “But this is another dimension of activities we are doing either in Israel”—to build “some sort of bridges to peace.”

The hospital hires Palestinian and Jewish Israelis, and treats anyone seeking care, though the Palestinian Authority recently barred their citizens from using Israeli hospitals—a “political” decision, according to Mor-Yosef, that he hopes will be reversed soon.

Ohana adds that in addition to Bruni-Sarkozy’s fresh face alongside Hadassah’s pro-Israel brand, when it comes to activism, the towering Italian-born beauty “does not just show up at gala dinners.” Her husband did just that, making a surprise appearance before heading off to Mexico after a quick bite.

“She knows the subject [of AIDS] really well,” Ohana said of the first lady, who lost a brother to the disease.

He cited her lengthy, technical discussions with researchers and doctors.

Through her contact with scientists and her Global Fund network, Ohana said Bruni-Sarkozy “can help make sure that Israelis and their researchers are not marginalized and that science has no borders.”

“Other first ladies have come” to the hospital, Mor-Yosef said. “But she’s different because she’s young, she’s beautiful, she’s not the typical first lady and that’s clear to everybody.”

Mor-Yosef stressed that Bruni-Sarkozy’s Hadassah participation was discussed before the financial crisis and the news that the $90 million that it had invested with Bernard Madoff was a mirage. Nevertheless, it was an especially good time for her to help raise more than $380,000 for the organization.

“The mood is very difficult from a financial point of view, but otherwise the hospital continues to be at the cutting edge of technology,” he added.

Most donations to the hospital come from the United States, but since Americans are feeling the pinch of a recession, Mor-Yosef said it is now “more important” to also seek funds elsewhere, in countries such as France and Germany. The medical organization currently raises 10 percent to 20 percent of its money from countries outside the United States and Israel.

Ohana told the JTA he is “persuaded” that Bruni-Sarkozy “will continue to closely follow Hadassah’s work, and will continue to help” in the future.

“That is what she promised me,” he said.

VIDEO: Israel tries to sex up its image

Britains’ Sky News reports from Tel Aviv on an Israeli advertising campaign to sex up its image.

7 Days in The Arts

Saturday, June 3

Left-leaning readers will appreciate tonight’s show featuring political commentary. “Laughing Liberally” is in town for just one night, after a successful February debut at New York City’s Town Hall. Attend to hear comedians/commentators Will Durst, Jim David, Marc Maron, Dean Obeidallah, Rick Overton and Katie Halper skewer Bush and roast the White House.

8:30 p.m. $25-$43. Wadsworth Theatre (on the VA grounds), Building 226, 11301 Wilshire Blvd., Brentwood. (213) 365-3500. ” width=”15″ height=”1″ alt=””>

Sunday, June 4

The South Robertson Neighborhoods Council puts on its annual block party “It’s a SoRo World” this weekend.
The free festival will include vendor and food booths representing area businesses, including Nathan’s kosher hot dogs, a block-long kids fun zone and an environmental pavilion.

11 a.m.-4 p.m. South Robertson Boulevard, between Beverlywood Street and Cattaraugus Avenue. ” width=”15″ height=”1″ alt=””>

Monday, June 5

“Reel Talk With Stephen Farber,” the preview film screening and conversation series hosted by Movieline’s film critic, returns for another 10-evening series, beginning tonight. Head to the Wadsworth Theatre for a screening of “Who Killed the Electric Car?” the documentary by Chris Paine recently shown at Sundance and Tribeca film fests. Farber will converse with Paine and exec producer Dean Devlin following the movie.

7 p.m. Mondays, June 5-Aug. 14. $20 (individual screenings), $150 (series). Wadsworth Theatre (on the VA grounds), Building 226, 11301 Wilshire Blvd., Brentwood. (213) 365-3500. ” width=”15″ height=”1″ alt=””>

Tuesday, June 6

Writers Bloc’s concept of featuring one renowned author interviewing another has made for unique literary evenings, offering something more than the usual book reading and signing. This evening, their duo will be modern master John Updike, interviewed by L.A.-centric satirical writer Bruce Wagner.

$20. Writers Guild Theater, 135 S. Doheny Drive, Beverly Hills. (310) 335-0917. ” width=”15″ height=”1″ alt=””>


Wednesday, June 7

Don’t call the late Claire Falkenstein’s pieces “sculpture.” She preferred “structures,” OK? The acclaimed artist’s works included gates designed for Peggy Guggenheim’s estate in Venice, Italy, in 1961,and many of her large-scale pieces can still be viewed in touring our fair city. Easier still, Louis Stern Fine Arts presents one in a series of exhibitions displaying works from Falkenstein’s estate. “Claire Falkenstein: Structure and Flow, Works from 1950-1980” is on view through Aug. 26.

Free. 9002 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood. (310) 276-0147. ” width=”15″ height=”1″ alt=””>

Thursday, June 8

They call it California’s Shangri-La; classical music lovers call it home this weekend. It’s Ojai Valley, and today through Sunday, it presents the annual Ojai Music Festival, now in its 60th year. Hear the music of contemporary composer Osvaldo Golijov performed by various vocalists and musicians over the course of the four days, attend lectures and take in the beauty of the lush surroundings.

June 8-11. Single tickets on sale. (805) 646-2094.  

Friday, June 9

The Contemporary Crafts Market offers decorative, functional and wearable art at all price points this weekend at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. More than 250 artisans will show their stuff — including glassware, jewelry, ceramics, watercolors, wood furniture and plenty more.

10 a.m.-6 p.m. (June 9-11). Free (children 12 and under), $6 (adults). 1855 Main St., Santa Monica. (310) 285-3655. ” width=”15″ height=”1″ alt=””>

Israel Fest Crowd Smaller, but Solid

Rides, kabobs, Mother’s Day and the Los Angeles Lakers made the 15th annual Israeli Festival an interesting experience this past Sunday. The combined forces of the holiday and the NBA playoffs brought the attendance rate at the May 11 event down to about 35,000 festival-goers — about 9,000 people less than the previous year, according to Adee Glazer-Drory, festival spokeswoman.

The unexpectedly hot weather at Woodley Park in Encino might also have been a factor in the 20 percent drop in attendance. By midday, singer Pini Cohen faced a wilting audience — despite the singer’s lively and enthusiastic performance.

The crowd rallied, however, when the parachuted members of the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department’s Golden Stars Skydiving Team performed and speakers, from event emcee and KABC-790 talk show host Larry Elder to Gov. Gray Davis, proclaimed their support for and commitment to the Jewish State.

Davis said that whatever the political differences of the people on the dais, "We are all united behind the view that we must support the only democracy in the Middle East."

Also in attendance were Reps. Howard Berman (D-Van Nuys) and Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks); Los Angeles City Councilmembers Wendy Gruel, Antonio Villaraigosa and Dennis Zine; California Assemblyman Paul Koretz; Los Angeles Unified School District Boardmember Julie Korenstein; Jewish Federation President John Fishel; and representatives of the Los Angles Police Department and Los Angeles Fire Department. Representing the State of Israel were Knesset member Natan B. Sharansky and Yuval Rotem, consul general of Israel in Los Angeles.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky was detained on a plane and his wife, Barbara, had to accept his award for "distinguished friend of the Israeli community."

Festival Chair Itzik Glazer said he was pleased by the number of people willing to come out to the festival, despite it falling on Mother’s Day.

"People have told me it’s the best festival yet," said his wife, Mikki Glazer.

For attendees, there were as many reasons to come out for the festival as there are ways to be Jewish. Marcie Elkin and her father, Robert Loring, came to the festival to "feel closer to my sister who made aliyah," Elkin said, adding that she was amazed by the crowd. "I was at the festival years ago, when it was in the city, and it’s tripled in size."

Vered Henn, who moved here from Haifa about eight years ago, said she missed the festival as it was when it was held at Pan Pacific Park in Los Angeles, but she felt it was too important an event to miss.

"This is the only thing we really have that connects us to Israel," Henn said.