Ata Iti? – By Jonathan Rose

When I was drafted into the army (a year after I made “aliyah”) I was placed in an office job dealing with communication between the army and reserve soldiers, mostly letting them know when they had reserve duty.

My Hebrew was not the greatest, but the army didn’t seem to care. One day one of my reserve soldiers phoned with some kind of problem – he couldn’t make it to his reserve duty, or something like that.

He obviously could tell I was not a native speaker because he was speaking slowly and clearly. It sounded to me like he thought I was an idiot. At the end of one sentence he asked me “are you with me?” – in Hebrew “Ata iti?” Iti also means slow, and I thought he was asking me if I was slow – as in retarded….. I said to him “no, I’m a new immigrant” (“lo, ani oleh hadash”)

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