Some respect for the dead – part two

By total coincidence, without any connection to my previous post mentioning my late father and my late sister, this post too concerns the dead. But this time I'm referring to Israel's dead, and more specifically, the fallen in Israel's wars.

After much begging and pleading on the part of a certain client who shall remain nameless but for whom I try to avoid working since they pay peanuts, I agreed, as a personal favor, to translate a brochure about the rights of families of fallen soldiers. Obviously, the subject is not new – the country has been dealing with it for over 60 years. Yes, the laws and rules change. But it is an ongoing thing, it's not a new project. Why on earth should this brochure suddenly be super urgent and ready for print within a few days is beyond me. I feel like storming into the government office in charge and bellowing at the officials: Excuse me, who's in charge here? Why hasn't this brochure been drafted ages ago? Do you have an earlier version, perhaps, which only needs some updating or tweaking? Why are you pressuring me to translate it within two days? Who on earth wrote this ghastly, inarticulate, substandard Hebrew text in the first place? Why didn't you have the Hebrew text edited by a professional before dumping this garbage in my lap?

I'll spare you examples – it would bore you to tears. But I will share with you a few small things that bothered me.

משפחת חלל הבוחרת לקבור את יקירהּ בבית עלמין אזרחי ומעדיפה מצבה אזרחית , זכאית להשתתפות במימון הקמת המצבה לאחר הגשת חשבונית מס/קבלה.

This concept of "hishtatfut" recurs throughout the document: the branch or department in question apparently share the cost of various expenses, or give partial reimbursement for various expenses. Thing is, it's impossible to tell from the sloppy Hebrew when the department/branch picks up the entire tab and when it only defrays part of the expense. Perhaps the vagueness is intentional; after all, this brochure apparently comes merely to give widows and orphans an inkling of what they're entitled to, and to urge them to contact the very willing, able, and "service-oriented" staff of the department in order to לממש את ההטבות. "Lemamesh et hahatavot", in case your browser doesn't handle Hebrew fonts:
עובדי היחידה להנצחת החייל עוסקים בכל הקשור לקבורה ולהנצחת הנופלים ומימוש הטבות הנוגעות לכך.

Doesn't this strike you as a weird choice of words? A person who has lost his/her spouse in the line of duty is entitled to certain benefits. But to actually get those benefits, you of course have to follow the Red Tape Road. The meaning is clear, yet the Hebrew words grate and cause me to wince. Perhaps I've been exposed to too much advertising blurb; the last time I saw this expression – mimush hatavot -- it was à propos a voucher for a discount at a fashion outlet.

I go to the website of the Ministry of Defense and notice that there is some mention of this agency loosely translated as Family and Commemoration Branch and its activities. Great, I think to myself. I'll just go to the English section of the website and I'll find out what's what. A few mouse-clicks later I discover that the Spokesperson Announcement page was last updated on July 24, 2007. Well over a year ago. I bet rivers of Spokesperson Announcements have since flowed in Redtapeland. The pages to do with commemoration have not been translated into English at all. But wait, there's a separate commemorative website, as I recall! No, sorry, no help there, either. The only page in English is the "Notes to Site Visitors".
So, I and my colleague S.G. struggled with the Hebrew to the best of our abilities. I apologize to any English speaker who eventually reads those hastily-prepared brochures and who finds them, um, lacking.


Shira said...

I know what you mean with regard to מימוש הטבות - the first association I had was of winning some prize or some voucher or whatever. Definitely a positive connotation.

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