JERUSALEM – Israelis honored legendary New York City mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, revered by many in the country for his strong Zionist sympathies, by naming a Tel Aviv street after him. The problem is, they can’t seem to spell it right.
Eager to correct a long-standing mistake in the Hebrew spelling of the street, Tel Aviv municipal officials consulted the highest authorities before rendering the verdict on a new spelling – only to get it wrong again.
Many foreign names on Israeli street signs are misspelled, reflecting the fundamental incompatibility of Hebrew’s 22 letters with the Latin alphabet. Lincoln, for example, usually comes out as “Linkolin.”
LaGuardia Street, a major thoroughfare in south Tel Aviv named for the man who led New York from 1933 to 1945, has been known to generations of Israelis as “LaGardia Street” because the original misspelling – reflecting the lack of a “u” in Hebrew – was never corrected.
The offending signs mark the off-ramp from a major highway into LaGuardia Street.
After getting letters and phone calls pointing out the error, Aviva Avigail, chairwoman of the Tel Aviv Municipal Street Sign Committee, sought the advice of the American Embassy and the prestigious Academy of the Hebrew Language to come up with a proper spelling.
The new signs produced by the commission still got it wrong – rendering the street “LaGvardia.”
“I contacted them and asked how this could have happened,” Avigail told Israel Army Radio on Monday.
Her interviewer, Yaakov Elon, seemed impressed by her forcefulness.
“So in any event, starting today, it will be LaGuardia, as we always should have said it, after Fiorello LaGuardia,” he said.
“Right,” Avigail said. “Fiorello LaGardia.”