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Shawn, Amit, Agam and Alicia

Our photo agency, Flash90, presented this morning a few obligatory Tu B’Shvat images, to be used by harassed editors looking for a quick filler with their eyes still half closed and their lips touching the day’s first cup of coffee out of many.

Each image is always accompanied by a suggested caption, providing as much background information as possible, for the same half-awake editor to pick from for his/her readers.

Here’s the caption that accompanied the above image:

“Shawn, Amit, Agam and Alicia plant a tree on January 24 2013 celebrating the Tu Bishvat holiday. Tu Bishvat is a Jewish holiday that marks the “New Year of the Trees.”

I don’t mind so much the different spelling of the holiday, favoring the transliteration of the holiday’s name from Hebrew over our own version which emphasizes its meaning (Tu B’Shvat – “tu” stands for “15,” and “B’Shvat” means “in Shvat” – the holiday is actually a date, the 15th day in the month of Shvat).

What got my attention instead were the names of these sweet, Israeli children: Shawn, Amit, Agam and Alicia.

Two out of the four are foreign! And the Israeli ones are very much not your run of the mill Yitzhak and Rivka.

So I rushed to my computer (actually, very little rushing was involved, I sit in front of the damned thing all day) and consulted the website “A Mother in Israel,” for two lists, one of the top 20 boys’ names in 2010, the other the top 20 girls’ names in the same year.

The compiler associated the names with the parents’ presumed political/social group: haredi (H), secular (S), or national religious (NR).

Israeli Baby Names for Boys, 2010

1. Noam (all) pleasantness
2. Itai (S, NR) biblical
3. Ori or Uri (S, NR) “my light”
4. Yehonatan (all) biblical
5. Daniel (all) biblical
6. David (all) biblical
7. Ariel (S, NR)
8. Ido (S, NR) biblical
9. Yosef (H) biblical
10. Itamar (S, NR) biblical
11. Yair (S, NR) biblical, “he will light”
12. Moshe (H) biblical
13. Yonatan (all) biblical
14. Amit (S, NR) colleague, “friend”
15. Avraham (H) biblical
16. Nehorai (NR) mishnaic, “light”
17. Guy (S, NR) “valley”
18. Yisrael (H) “Israel”
19. Eitan (S, NR) mishnaic “strong”
20. Yehuda (NR, H) biblical

Israel Baby Names for Girls, 2010

1. Noa (S, NR) biblical
2. Shira (all) “song”
3. Maya (S, NR) Russian
4. Tamar (all), biblical, “palm tree”
5. Yael (all) biblical, “mountain goat”
6. Talia (S, NR), “lamb” 7. Roni (S, NR), “sing, shout for joy”
8. Sarah (H), biblical
9. Noya (S, NR), feminized form of Noy, “beauty”
10. Michal (all), biblical
11. Hila (S, NR), “halo”
12. Tahel (S, NR), “she will light”
13. Adi (S, NR), “jewel”
14. Ayala (all), “doe”
15. Hodaya (NR), “thanks to God”
16. Maayan (S, NR), “spring”
17. Lian (S), foreign
18. Ella (S, NR), terebinth tree, also an idol.
19. Avigayil (NR, H), biblical
20. Rivka (NR, H), biblical

OK, sigh of relief everyone. At least according to the Internet, Israeli children’s names are still pretty much Jewish, and very few Israeli parents, secular or religious, are naming their newborns, boy or girl, after John and Yoko’s kid.

Happy Trees New Year’s!

About the Author: Yori Yanover has been a working journalist since age 17, before he enlisted and worked for Ba'Machane Nachal. Since then he has worked for Israel Shelanu, the US supplement of Yedioth, JCN18.com, USAJewish.com, Lubavitch News Service, Arutz 7 (as DJ on the high seas), and the Grand Street News. He has published Dancing and Crying, a colorful and intimate portrait of the last two years in the life of the late Lubavitch Rebbe, (in Hebrew), and two fun books in English: The Cabalist's Daughter: A Novel of Practical Messianic Redemption, and How Would God REALLY Vote.


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