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September 4, 2015 / 20 Elul, 5775
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How to Say ‘Sand’ in Hebrew

dunes

חוֹל

 listen and repeat
Last week, I wrote a post on the Hebrew term for mermaid and how that relates to the name of the Israeli coastal town, בַּת יָם ( listen and repeat) – Bat Yam.
Here’s a post about sand, which inspired the name for Bat Yam’s next-door neighbor town, חוֹלוֹן ( listen and repeat).
The Hebrew word for sand is חוֹל ( listen and repeat). In the plural, it’s חוֹלוֹת ( listen and repeat), for example:
זֶה הָלַךְ לְאִבּוּד בְּחוֹלוֹת הַזְּמַן.
It got lost in the sands of time.
 listen
 
The Israeli city חולון was named after an ancient town mentioned in the biblical book of יְהוֹשֻׁעַ ( listen and repeat) – Joshua, though that town was most likely located in the Judean Hills, far from today’s metropolitan Tel Aviv area. Why transplant the name of a far-off town to one situated on the sandy coast? Because today’s חולון was built on top of small hills of sand.
The word חול referring to sand sounds and looks the same as the word חול referring to something profane or not sacred, but the two words are not related. The root of חול meaning sand is ח.ו.ל (kh.w.l), while the root of חול meaning profane is ח.ל.ל (kh.l.l).

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About the Author: Ami Steinberger is founder and director of Ulpan La-Inyan.

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