Word of the Day / Shigrat Herum: When the Emergency Is the Routine

Especially in the south, Israelis aren’t sure whether they should be returning to their regularly scheduled life or to the siren-sensitive routine of the past month.

Reuters

The 72-hour cease-fire that ended with a bang on Friday morning gave many Israelis hope that maybe, just maybe, it was time for hazara l’shigra – “return to routine,” a phrase that means getting back to your regularly scheduled life, to business as usual, especially after a time of violence and uncertainty.

The resumption of routine – a concept the army has turned into the acronym hazlash – is something of an ideology in Israel: immediately rebuilding a storefront after a bomb shatters the glass into pointy-edged, sparkling smithereens, rapidly repairing a residential building after the living room floor is littered by chunks of the rocket-burdened roof.

“One day and one night are left until I can say hazlash,” Omer Yefman writes in a poem about his army service on Israeli arts website Bama Hadasha. “A military acronym for an end to minutes of fear and sweat, that’s it, it’s over, return to routine.” In the civilian world, a radio announcer wished his listeners a pleasant hazlash, on what would end up being the last day of the cease-fire.

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Hamas fired more than 50 rockets and mortar shells at Israel on Friday alone, and Israel has resumed its offensive in Gaza. The renewal of hostilities has had people wondering: Is it time to return to the shigra of a summer vacation that didn’t have a chance to get started before the rockets began flying, or do we have to go back to the routine of life over the past month, of deciding whether to take the family out only after determining the distance between the destination and the nearest bomb shelter?

That crisis footing is known by the seemingly oxymoronic term shigrat herum, meaning “emergency routine” – the new normal of sticking close to the bomb shelter and not going outdoors too much in rocket-heavy zones if you can help it.

The confusion is reflected in news stories about the army’s directives. On Wednesday, the second day of the cease-fire, one news website sounded the all-clear with the headline “Home Front Command: Hazara l’shigra across the country.” On Friday, another news site had the opposite headline: “Home Front Command: Hazara l’shigrat herum” – “Return to emergency routine.”

In many parts of the country, the old routines are indeed resurfacing. But over the weekend, the secretariat of Kibbutz Nahal Oz, on the Gaza border, instructed its members – many of whom left their homes weeks ago – not to come home yet, given the renewed rocket fire. “There’s a feeling of frustration and confusion,” a kibbutz resident told a reporter from Walla news, saying it’s tough to live a normal life – what she called having shigrat hayim, literally “life routine” – when it’s not yet safe to go outside.

Israelis know they need to go back to their old routine. But especially in the south, they’re just not quite sure which one: the routine of yore, when they took the kids to the beach without scanning the sky for incoming pieces of metal, or the “emergency routine” of a war that might take a bit of a break here and there, but ultimately (for now, at least) just keeps on going.

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, click here