Word of the Day / Agalul

This kibbutz invention may be convenient for day care centers but looks like a mobile prison for very short offenders.

For parents with one or two little kids who haven't started walking yet or are too young for much of a trek, a stroller's just the ticket. But what if you're running a home day-care center and want to get, say, four or five kids outside but don't have a backyard? If you're in Israel, you just may find yourself heading to the park while wheeling an agalul (ah-gah-LOOL), a mobile wood (or sometimes metal) playpen that was prevalent in the heyday of kibbutzim but can still be seen on Israeli sidewalks, even in cities.

Agalul combines the Hebrew words for stroller (agalah) and crib (lul, which is also the word for "chicken coop"). That word choice makes perfect sense since this rather unwieldy child-moving device is pretty much a combination crib-stroller. Or it would be if you usually used your crib as a dumping ground for a whole crew of little people simultaneously.

With their slats or bars for walls, aglulim, especially the old-school kibbutz-style wooden ones, look somewhat like a mobile prison for very short offenders, and there's something about them that I find mildly disturbing.

It might be that whole "Hansel and Gretel trapped in a cage" look, or perhaps it's the dubious safety aspect, at least for someone who, like me, is paranoid about buckling up the stroller every time. Yet that impression mingles oddly with the sense of eminent practicality and simple efficiency that emanates from these cribs on wheels. All we've gotta do is keep those little tykes far, far away from the gingerbread house.

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.