Word of the Day Srugim: A Knitted Patchwork of Religious Zionists

The term srugim, which literally means needlework, is how certain religious Israelis define themselves - based on the type of yarmulke on their heads.

Shoshana Kordova
Shoshana Kordova
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Knitted yarmulkes for those religious Israelis outside of the Haredi world.
Knitted yarmulkes for those religious Israelis outside of the Haredi world.
Shoshana Kordova
Shoshana Kordova

Haredi news website Kikar Hashabat reported a few months ago that srugim [knitted or crocheted] journalists and politicians were worried about the possibility – since actualized – that billionaire right-wing donor and U.S. casino magnate Sheldon Adelson would take over Makor Rishon, which by now has become the second Israeli newspaper owned by the Netanyahu supporter.

The term srugim has less to do with needlework than with the semiotics of Israeli headgear. You see, Makor Rishon is a newspaper geared to religious Zionist readers, and the menfolk of the dati leumi (literally religious nationalist, sometimes just called dati, or religious) community typically wear crocheted kippot on their heads, as opposed to the black velvet kippot and black hats of Haredim, the ultra-Orthodox.

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A variation of the root that gives rise to srugim is used in Tractate Moed Katan to refer to weaving or interlacing the cords that in talmudic times were used to prepare a bed. More recently, the word has come to refer to religious Zionists themselves – a category similar to modern Orthodoxy outside of Israel, and referring to Jews who are Orthodox but not ultra-Orthodox – because they are the primary wearers of the kippot srugot, the knitted or crocheted skullcaps (or yarmulkes, to use the Yiddish word).

Not coincidentally, Srugim is also the name of an Israeli TV drama about the lives of Orthodox singles in Jerusalem, which aired from 2008-2012, and of an Israeli news website geared toward religious readers. Another Hebrew website with the same target audience is called Saroog, from the same root, and its tagline is The site for the srugim religious people among us.

What those niche websites are really offering is a place for people in the same demographic group to hang their headwear.

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.



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