If you’ve read from the Torah or taken an ulpan course that had you reading Israeli newspapers, you know that the vowel marks you learned when you first learned to read Hebrew are cast aside like training wheels when it comes to reading grown up texts.
Once you know how Israeli grammar works at a suitably advanced level, that’s not a problem — from a word’s context, and part of speech, you can figure out how to pronounce it, even though only the consonants are written down.
Sometimes, though, the lack of vowels presents a problem for even the most veteran Hebrew readers — generally when it comes to reading a foreign word — which, being English or French or German or Arabic, doesn’t conform to the rules of Hebrew grammar.
Now, we’re told by a friend of a friend, that a problem has cropped up with two words that are seemingly unrelated — but are identical when stripped of their vowels in Hebrew.
The words are “selfie” — meaning a self portrait taken by a telephone camera — and “Salafi,” the Muslim fundamentalist movement that numbers several jihadi groups, among them Al Qaeda and Isis.
The two words came together earlier this month, when Gen. Hawk Carlisle, commander of the U.S. Air Combat Command, reported that soldiers looking through pro-ISIS social media posts found a selfie posted by an ISIS fighter at a command center. He had neglected to turn off the GPS in his phone, and it automatically tagged his location.
Less than a day later, U.S. warplanes went in and dropped three targeted bombs on the location.
The Hebrew letters may be the same, but remember: Sometimes selfies and Salafis don’t mix