Word of the Day / Gibush: Coming Together Like Water Molecules in the Freezer

This word can refer to a day of paintball, a military selection process or a cease-fire proposal. Soon it will all be crystal clear.

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Quartz crystal.
Quartz crystal.Credit: Archaeodontosaurus

What’s your favorite ice cream flavor? If you could be any animal in the world, real or imagined, which would you choose?

Go ahead, roll your eyes all you want. You don’t have to answer those questions – unless, of course, you’re in the midst of a gibush (ghee-BOOSH) exercise.

On the most literal level, gibush is the transformation of a liquid, or materials dissolved in a liquid, into a solid with a latticed atomic structure – in other words, the formation of a gavish, or crystal.

The scientific process of crystallization has been borrowed for metaphorical use in English – an idea becomes clearer and more definite as it crystallizes, just as water takes on a more definite form when it crystallizes into ice. Similarly, gibush often refers to a metaphorical consolidation or formation, though it has a broader meaning in Hebrew than “crystallization” does in English.

In Israel, gibush is often the word of choice when referring to a bill or other proposal, the kind of thing that often requires people to hash out all the details in seemingly endless discussions before it can be approved. You can legabesh (to use the infinitive) a solution to housing prices, a plan to monitor chemical weapons in Syria or a final draft of a cease-fire agreement, to use a few recent examples from the media. In cases like this, legabesh can mean “to work out,” “to come up with” or “to formulate.”

Gibush can also be a team-building exercise, in which the entity being brought together is not a law or agreement but a group of people – say, employees at the same company or a cohort of students in a school or youth group – whether by means of an icebreaker question or activities like hiking or paintball. A day dedicated to this sort of cohesiveness-generating activity is known as a yom gibush, or gibush day.

The word also has a very specific military meaning in Israel, where gibush is part of the selection process for elite combat units in the army, and can include tests of physical fitness as well as emotional preparedness, leadership skills and the ability to cooperate in a group.

As for those icebreakers, if you still haven’t figured out what animal you’d like to be (I personally think dragon would be pretty cool, though you’d have to be careful not to start a forest fire by breathing too hard), it’s time to legabesh a response so you can be prepared for your next yom gibush.

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