Word of the Day / Ha’onesh Hagadol: Summer Vacation – Sun, Sea and Annoyance

The kids love being out of school but parents may lose much hair (and money) while trying to keep them busy.

Shoshana Kordova
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Kids learning a tip on landscape painting during their summer vacation.
Shoshana Kordova

If you want to talk about the kinds of rights that a genuine democracy protects, you’ll probably be whipping out the word hofesh, meaning “freedom.”

Freedom of speech is hofesh hadibur, freedom of religion is hofesh hadat... and freedom from the classroom is hahofesh hagadol, or “the big hofesh.”

That’s because the word for such lofty freedoms as the kind that guarantee your right to insult a politician or pray to any god you want (or no god at all) is also the word for shaking off the shackles of everyday routine – in a word, vacation.

Just as the British have “the long vacation” during the summer months, Israelis have “the big vacation.” But while children and teachers may look forward to this time off all year, some Israeli parents – at least those who don’t work in the school system themselves – dread what they sometimes, with tongue mostly in cheek, call ha’onesh hagadol: “the big punishment.”

One blogger trying to juggle moving, working and keeping the kids occupied once school lets out posted a list of “How to fill the days of ha’onesh hagadol and (maybe) stay alive,” with suggestions like “Serve as a referee at the third, fourth and fifth world wars, because the kids are already bored, so they’d rather fight.”

Sure, there are plenty of parents who seem to have everything sorted out, whether they’re about to embark on a family trip (are we there yet?), they’re shipping the kids off to the grandparents or the local day camp (sleepaway camp isn’t much of a thing here), or they just love doing artsy projects with their glue-encrusted progeny all day long.

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But even the craftiest among us sometimes feels an urge to steal an all-too-eager glance at the calendar on occasion. Indeed, the last line of that blog post with the onesh hagadol recommendations may resonate a little too strongly by the time the punishing heat of August rolls around: “Dream about September.”

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.