Eager to correct a long-standing mistake in the Hebrew spelling of a street named after legendary New York City mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, Tel Aviv municipal officials consulted the highest authorities before rendering the verdict on a new spelling - only to get it wrong again.
Many foreign names on Israeli street signs are misspelled, reflecting the fundamental incompatibility of Hebrew's 22 letters with the Latin alphabet. Lincoln, for example, usually comes out as "Linkolin."
LaGuardia Street, a major thoroughfare in south Tel Aviv, has been known to generations of Israelis as "LaGardia Street" because the original misspelling - reflecting the lack of a "u" in Hebrew - was never corrected. LaGuardia is revered by many Israelis for the strong Zionist sympathies he demonstrated during his terms as New York mayor between 1934 and 1945. Nicknamed "The Little Flower" (he stood 5'2"), LaGuardia is fondly remembered for reading comic strips over the radio to New York's children during a citywide newspaper strike.
The offending Tel Aviv signs mark the off-ramp from the Ayalon Highway into LaGuardia Street. After getting many letters and phone calls pointing out the error, Aviva Avigail, chairwoman of the Tel Aviv Municipal Street Sign Committee, sought the advice of the American Embassy and the prestigious Academy of the Hebrew Language to come up with a proper spelling.
However, the new signs produced by the commission still got the name wrong - rendering it as "LaGvardia."
"I contacted them and asked how this could have happened," Avigail told Army Radio yesterday.
Interviewer Yaakov Elon seemed impressed by her forcefulness. "So in any event, starting today, it will be LaGuardia, as we always should have said it, after Fiorello LaGuardia," he said.
"Right," Avigail said, "Fiorello LaGardia."
Elon was incredulous.
"Gardia, you said, "Gardia."
"Yes, this man who was so good for Zionists and the Jews, I hope this sign which I hope I'll be able to report soon will be in place for many years, and we won't go back to the original mistake, and we'll do it the way it should have been done in the first place."
"We're all waiting for that," Elon said.