A mivtza, not to be confused with a mitzvah.
A mivtza, not to be confused with a mitzvah. Photo by Dreamstime
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You’ve probably heard that the Israel Defense Forces air strikes in Gaza are part of an operation, or mivtza (meev-TZA), known in English as Protective Edge. But you don’t have to get called up for reserve duty to take part in a mivtza in Israel. All you have to do is buy something at a discount, whether it’s bottled water for the safe room or a little black dress for the dance floor.

That’s because mivtza means not just “operation” or “campaign,” but also “sale.”

Those two disparate meanings came together in my Facebook newsfeed this week, when a neighbor of mine called for Israel to take a harder line against the Palestinians.

Mivtza Cast Lead, Mivtza Pillar of Defense, Mivtza Protective Edge... How many times can you have a mivtza on the same product?” read the Hebrew Facebook post. “Hasn’t the time come for a liquidation mivtza?!?!?”

You don’t have to agree with the sentiment to appreciate the word play.

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Mivtza shares the same root as levatzea, meaning "to implement, carry out, execute or perform," as in the executive branch of government, hareshut hamevatzaat (“the executive authority”). There’s also another consumerism-related word with the same root that has a strictly monetary meaning: betza, meaning profit, gain or lucre, often acquired by nefarious methods.

The operational kind of mivtza – not to be confused with mitzvah, meaning “commandment” but often used in the sense of “good deed” and, more to the point here, spelled completely differently from mivtza in Hebrew – means that a given plan of action is being carried out.

The same concept can apply to a store whose plan of action is all about attracting more customers, for instance, by running a sale. 

As for the renewed warfare, that’s a raw deal for pretty much everyone.

To contact Shoshana Kordova with column suggestions or other word-related comments, email her at shoshanakordova@gmail.com. For previous Word of the Day columns, go to: www.haaretz.com/news/features/word-of-the-day.