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Friday, January 13, 2006

Why is the Army Sending Me To Sit On a Prostitution Committee?

This started as a reply to Esther's (of My Urban Kvetch) comment to my post about a sign depicting the word "Zona". Her comment reminded me of a story I feel warrants it's own post.

To my knowledge, the word zona in Hebrew means prostitute. Although the Artscroll Siddur/Chumash translates it as "inn keeper", I think they choose to go for the euphemism because, well, it's a prayer book. I haven't found any source to suggest it means grocer, and comes from the word mazon- food. I do have a funny story though involving the confusion of these two words.

Just over a year ago, a few months after arriving on my new base, my CO informed me that I would be participating in a vaadat tzuna. I didn't know the word tzuna and I only heard the "t" from the first word so I heard:" You will be participating in a vaadat zona." I was a little surprised to hear I was going to be sitting on a "prostitution committee". I mean, what exactly do they decide on? How does one get to make such important decisions relating to prostitution? What does the army have to do with prostitution? Isn't that more the police's jurisdiction, or perhaps the Finance Ministry's?

I went to the committee meeting. I was anxious to hear what we would be talking about. Not so surprisingly, we didn't discuss prostitution. We discussed food. The quality of food on our base, the selection, quantity, etc. We were asked a bunch of questions by some officers and asked to rate certain things on a scale of 1-5. I was the only one who seemed to like the food. Perhaps all those years of eating Yeshiva cafeteria food has developed my pallet for food made in large quantities.

A few hours later a friend of mine asked me how the committee was and I explained to him that it went fine and wasn't a big deal. I told him that I still didn't understand what the committee had to do with prostitution. He explained that it wasn't prostitution-"zona", it was nutrition-"tzuna". Suddenly it all made sense, and a new word was added to my lexicon.


At 5:21 PM, January 15, 2006, Anonymous Moshe Ebner said...

actually Chazal do say someplace (the source slips my mind) with regards to Rachav (the woman who saves the spies in Joshua chapter 2) that she was an innkeeper rather than a prostitute. However this is the only case of its ever being used this way to my recollection and whether that's the case or rather as a savior of the spies our rabbis wanted to clean up her reputation I don't know. Nonetheless it's not unheard of for such a translation to be made by someone with a little more authority than artscroll

At 7:00 PM, January 15, 2006, Blogger Esther Kustanowitz said...

I love those "confused Anglos in Israel" stories. And funny about the Prostitution Committee. Although it does sound more fun than Va'ad Tefilah, it's probably less fun once you've turned it into a committee with actual meetings and agendas and stuff. How unsexy.

At 11:26 PM, January 16, 2006, Blogger Ben said...

It's funny that you bring up the story of Rachav because I was discussing that story with my father the other day when he read this post. I was still under the impression that Rachav offered a few more services than your average innkeeper, and therefore would agree with the "clean up her reputation" opinion; But I am hardly a Torah scholar.


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