Land of the Surreal

Opinion: Land of the Surreal

By Gail Hareven

Published November 17, 2010, issue of November 26, 2010.
  • Print
  • Share Share

In 1911, when the 11th edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica was published, the entry titled “The Hebrew Language” stated: “The dream of some Zionists that Hebrew — a would-be Hebrew, that is to say — will again become a living, popular language in Palestine, has still less prospect of realization than their vision of a restored Jewish empire in the holy land.” But reality doesn’t always obey the rules of realism, and 100 years later, Hebrew — the spoken language of about six million Israeli Jews — is developing at a dizzying pace.

One of the words that has come to prominence in recent years is hazui, which literally means “hallucinated,” a kind of waking dream. Although the word comes from the Old Testament, it is used colloquially enough to be considered slang, referring to something strange or slightly surreal — something dreamlike and unexpected. The sense of the term can be positive or negative, but it always means weird. This one “had a hallucinated meeting at the corner store,” that one “was invited to a hallucinated party,” and the third “read a completely hallucinated article in the newspaper.” With so many hallucinations, you’d think everyone ought to be sent either to rehab or the mental ward.

Vanessa Davis

When an Israeli comes across something seemingly impossible that nonetheless happens, it is hazui. But the things we call hazui are actually amazingly trivial: nothing more than little oddities and slight divergences from the expected rules of reality. Meanwhile revolutions that ought to strike us fantastic are perceived as part of the ordinary course of events. No one says that the creation of a democratic Jewish state is hazui, that equal rights for women are hazui, that an Internet chat conducted in Hebrew is totally hazui. Just like the Encyclopedia Britannica, we have, I think, a pretty unrealistic perception of what’s supposed to happen, or not supposed to happen, in reality.

Israeli writer Gail Hareven’s novel, “The Confessions of Noa Weber” (Melville House) was published in English in the U.S. in 2009.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach! http://jd.fo/q3LO2
  • "We are not so far removed from the tragedies of the past, and as Jews sit down to the Seder meal, this event is a teachable moment of how the hatred of Jews-as-Other is still alive and well. It is not realistic to be complacent."
  • Aperitif Cocktail, Tequila Shot, Tom Collins or Vodka Soda — Which son do you relate to?
  • Elvis craved bacon on tour. Michael Jackson craved matzo ball soup. We've got the recipe.
  • This is the face of hatred.
  • What could be wrong with a bunch of guys kicking back with a steak and a couple of beers and talking about the Seder? Try everything. #ManSeder
  • BREAKING: Smirking killer singled out Jews for death in suburban Kansas City rampage. 3 die in bloody rampage at JCC and retirement home.
  • Real exodus? For Mimi Minsky, it's screaming kids and demanding hubby on way down to Miami, not matzo in the desert.
  • The real heroines of Passover prep aren't even Jewish. But the holiday couldn't happen without them.
  • Is Handel’s ‘Messiah’ an anti-Semitic screed?
  • Meet the Master of the Matzo Ball.
  • Pierre Dulaine wants to do in his hometown of Jaffa what he did for kids in Manhattan: teach them to dance.
  • "The first time I met Mick Jagger, I said, 'Those are the tackiest shoes I’ve ever seen.'” Jewish music journalist Lisa Robinson remembers the glory days of rock in her new book, "There Goes Gravity."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.