Word of the Day

La’asot Yeladim: Making Kids, in the Nice Way

It isn't a dig at huge observant families, it's just how Israelis say 'have kids'

The first time I heard the phrase la’asot yeladim (la-a-SOT ye-la-DEEM), I wondered if this talk about “making children” was a derogatory and somewhat crude jab at the ultra-Orthodox, who typically have large families.

At first hearing, it sounded similar to referring to having children as “breeding,” with its emphasis on the act of reproduction rather than on being a parent.

But when I heard an ultra-Orthodox city council member use it while I was covering a Jerusalem council meeting, I started to realize that this is just how Israelis often talk about having kids.

A parenting article on the news and entertainment website Mako is headlined “Is it worth la’asot yeladim at the age of 40?” and an advice column on the Calcalist financial news website reads “Should we la’asot yeladim?”

This doesn’t, of course, mean the term can’t also be derogatory (just about anything can be, in the right context), as in a rather unwieldy Globes reference to the “help-I-made-childen-who-I-can’t-feed-so-give-me-child-benefits-and-housing-to-compensate-for-my-irresponsibility mentality.”

Reflecting the fact that la’asot primarily means “make” or “do,” when you Google la’asot yeladim in Hebrew, you get not just links related to having children but also to child-friendly activities. Because once you’ve decided la’asot yeladim, the next big question is what do you actually do – that is, la’asot – with them?

But you don’t need the word la’asot to talk about having kids. Another synonym for “making children” is “bringing children” (lehavi yeladim), a shortened version of “bringing children into the world.”

If you don’t need a verb or a gerund, though, you can go with the old standby yesh, as in yesh li yeladim – “I have children,” which, as in English, focuses more on the fact that you are a parent than on what you did to get there.