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Friday, February 10, 2006

Photo Friday (Vol. LV) ['signs of the times' edition]

As most of you know by now, I try to always keep my little digital camera with me whenever I'm out of the house.  That way if I see something out of the ordinary or strange (to me, anyway), I can snap a picture.

The funny thing is that up until recently, it hadn't occurred to me to take any pictures of a genre of items that I still find strange and out of the ordinary; Road signs.

Israel had a few major challenges to overcome when tackling the whole road sign issue.  First and foremost was the language issue.  There are three two official languages (Hebrew, Arabic and English... thanks Amechad), plus the added challenge of countless residents and tourists who speak other languages but none of the three two official ones. 

As an added bonus, the roadsign makers needed to take into consideration the small subset of the population that are functionally illiterate yet are members of the driving community.  On the few occasions I have been in line behind Bedouin men or women in the post office who have had to use their thumbprint in lieu of a signature because they couldn't read or write, I've wondered how they manage on the roads.

So it's not surprising that the road signs here are a bit different here than the ones with which I grew up.

First of all, there are a bunch of signs that don't require any proficiency in any language. There are the obvious ones such as 'Stop':


and 'caution'


... as well as some less obvious ones that  convey a general sense of urgency... without stating clearly about what:


Some are pretty obvious, like this...


... and this:


... while others are less so (perhaps this means you travel straight ahead until you bounce off something):


After noticing a decided gender bias in certain signage last year (this is a stroller/wheelchair ramp that bears the imprinted words 'For mother and baby' in Hebrew)...


... I was pleased to see a more egalitarian sign indicating that Israeli fathers do occasionally go out walking with their children:


By far, the clearest barometer of my ongoing acclimatisation to Israeli culture is the place on the tri-lingual signs to which my eyes instinctively gravitate.  When we first arrived my eyes were drawn only to the English.  But now, more often than not, I find myself reading the Hebrew:


One of the early sources of confusion for me was the similarity between how the route numbers and speed limit are indicated.  The following is a sign that for months I thought was the route number since it is located along route 60:


But then further up the road I noticed the same signs with the number 70 inside them... and I knew I hadn't changed roads. 

It turns out the route numbers are indicated inside a different shaped red border (below) and the numbers inside the red circles indicate the speed limit.  Would it have killed them to put 'kph' after the speed to make that clearer?


There are countless other interesting signs here that I haven't had time to photograph for posterity... but I'll leave you today with a sign you aren't likely to see in too many places in the world:


Shabbat Shalom.


Posted by David Bogner on February 10, 2006 | Permalink


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» Israeli Road Signs from Next Cantor
Camel crossing! [Read More]

Tracked on Feb 21, 2006 9:52:47 PM

» Road raves from Soccer Dad
Treppenwitz recently had a photo Friday about road signs in Israel. It reminded me of two things. One was a 3 years ago in Tzfat (Safed) I was driving when I saw the sign for "Do not Enter." For some... [Read More]

Tracked on Feb 24, 2006 12:41:29 PM


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Actually English isn't an official language - just Hebrew and Arabic. English, of course, being the "international language" (as French once was and still is in a few places) is also utilized in a variety of places but in places or offices frequented by Israelis and not tourists it is common for there just to be Hebrew and Arabic (look at the forms you fill out).

Posted by: amechad | Feb 10, 2006 12:44:19 PM

Perhaps that last sign (of the camel crossing) would be a good one to put on the Merritt Parkway at strategic places -- I would imagine it would definitely slow the traffic down! ;)
Shabbat Shalom.

Posted by: Val | Feb 10, 2006 1:02:45 PM

I think you'd appreciate this.

Posted by: soccerdad | Feb 10, 2006 3:27:05 PM

So true. :)

Posted by: Shayna | Feb 10, 2006 4:14:49 PM

Is the last one a speed limit sign ("go no faster than a camel") or a highway name sign ("welcome to camel highway")?

Have a delightful Shabbat.

Posted by: Doctor Bean | Feb 10, 2006 4:49:12 PM

Of the 60+ rolls of actual film pictures i took over my two years in Israel, the majority are of scenery and road signs. And all my friends thought i was crazy! ha ha ha ha!!! who's laughing now, punks???

Posted by: Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) | Feb 10, 2006 5:00:22 PM

Thanks for this lighthearted post. I got a lot of smiles out of it. Loved the camel crossing sign; although it's not really different than deer crossing signs over here. But still got a chuckle :)
Shabbat Shalom!

Posted by: Essie | Feb 10, 2006 6:03:41 PM

I love the camel sign!

Do they have "sheep/goats crossing" signs?

Also, it's interesting how the Arabic sign says both Jerusalem and Al Quds. I know Arabs refer to it as Al Quds, but I'm still trying to find out what that word actually means. Does it have a translation?

Posted by: Irina | Feb 10, 2006 7:47:46 PM

(hoping the other alphabets come out)

القدس (Alquds) is the exact Arabic cognate of the Hebrew word הקדש (Haqodesh), short for مدينة القدس (Madinat Alquds), "The Holy City" or "City of the Holiness". עיר הקדש (‘Ir Haqodesh) in Hebrew.

Posted by: Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) | Feb 10, 2006 10:34:28 PM

Thanks, Steg!

Posted by: Irina | Feb 11, 2006 6:47:45 AM

Most of Israeli signage derives directly from European/International standards - other places have already encountered the need to make things language-independent.

In Europe most of the signs are variations on the red circle (speed limits, one way/no entry/right of way) and the red triangle (hazardous conditions), and blue and green backgrounds are deployed similar to here.

The only befuddled ones are us Americans.

Posted by: Ben-David | Feb 11, 2006 9:11:05 PM

Amecahd... Thanks. I guess I knew that, but the omnipresence of English allows me to forget.

Val... Do I have to worry about you stealing road signs while you're here? :-)

SoccorDad... Very cute. Thanks for sharing.

Shayna... Was that in reply to the apologies or the bit about the road signs? :-)

Doctor Bean... If you look in the background of the camel sign you can see the speed limit is 90, so obviously they aren't that worried about the problem. :-)

Steg... OK, buddy, you're freakin' me out here. :-) But thanks for passing along the language lesson.

Essie... I suppose, but camels move so much slower than deer. I imagine you'd have to be trying to hit one for this to really be a problem. :-)

Irina... I haven't seen a sheep one yet, but I'll keep my eyes open for one.

Ben-David... I assumed as much, but since I'm writing about life here as an expat American... this is what you get. :-)

Posted by: treppenwitz | Feb 11, 2006 10:40:12 PM

Hey- I stayed in Kiryat Arba when I was in Israel over Chanukah! What were you doing near there? Funny thing is, I never even noticed the speed limit signs. The city signs did help me realize where I was whenever I was travelling around the country, though. "Oh, so that's where Shaalvim and Mevaseret are...and that's where Beit Meir is...." I finally realized, heh heh! It was odd to see names of places, and not simply street names/numbers (and exit numbers) on exit signs on the highway (and around the whole country in general). It seemed a bit dark on some of the roads, though- I'm assuming that there's good lighting on most roads, though, right?

Posted by: tnspr569 | Feb 12, 2006 3:16:12 AM

Ok, that post was just cool!

Posted by: Faye | Feb 12, 2006 4:50:37 AM

I feel stupid saying it. I find myself constantly wanting to comment to tell you I've enjoyed the post and yet have nothing intelligent to add. The gas - 100 m sign was the winner! Btw, When I asked you about commenting on other blogs, I didn't mean you had to I was just curious if that was something you enjoyed doing. Thanks, though :) Anyway, while I am "speaking" to you, maybe you could help me with some Questions. I'd appreciate you input. (I've been asking my favorite "head screwed on straight" bloggers)

Posted by: Ayelet | Feb 12, 2006 6:45:35 AM

"The following is a sign that for months I thought was the route number since it is located along route 60:"

I had a very strange feeling of deja vu reading this one. Quite a few years ago we (the STG family) spent a few years in an American Midwest city as part of a fairly large Israeli "settlement" there.

Anyway, there was a local (intra-state) highway 60 (!) crossing the area, and in the city itself the posted speed limit on it was 40 (mph,of course). So an Israeli lady was caught doing about 65 (mph), and, being an Israeli, she told the highway patrolman that she thought that 60 is the speed limit.

To her chagrin and sorrow, the guy wasn't a newbie, so, instead of writing out a report he took the shotgun seat and spent about an hour riding with her around town and explainig (slowly) every road sign they have encountered. You should have listened to the lady's report afterwards (about a month or so)! Oy vey!

Sorry for a very long comment

Posted by: SnoopyTheGoon | Feb 14, 2006 5:54:43 PM

I tried to write a trackback in my blog, so maybe it will show up here... who knows. I love the camel sign, there are tons of them around here (Arad)...

Posted by: Yakov Chodosh | Feb 15, 2006 2:12:21 PM

Got it! Turns out my version of Wordpress (2) doesn't work well with this stuff but I can use this thing in the meantime: http://www.aylwardfamily.com/content/tbping.asp
until I get 2.01 running...

Posted by: Yakov Chodosh | Feb 21, 2006 9:54:17 PM

Interesting post. Since English is not an official language, understandably the arabic naming is second, but it's still disturbing.
As for the illiterate ones, I doubt they have a driver's license.

Posted by: Jacky | Feb 24, 2006 2:48:24 PM

I don't remember that variety of road signs when I lived in Israel 1965-1967.

Just FYI, I used your camel-sign photo (not hotlinked) in my article Speeding Does Not Cause Accidents, with full attribution of course and a link back to your article. If this is any problem at all I will remove it as swiftly as a camel racing across the Arabian desert.

Posted by: bernie | Aug 20, 2008 7:08:01 PM

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