My name is Ram Rachum, and I'm a software developer based in Israel, specializing in the Python programming language.

This is my personal blog. I write about technology, programming, Python, and any other thoughts that come to my mind.

I'm sometimes available for freelance work in Python and Django. My expertise is in developing a product from scratch.

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13th July 2013

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Think that the bible sucks? Try reading it in Hebrew

It’ll suck even more.

Hi. To those of you who don’t know me, I’m Israeli. I was born in Israel and lived here for my entire life.

There are many great things about living in Israel. Having to take bible lessons for 11 years of your childhood, from second grade to the very last year of high-school, is most definitely not one of them.

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Yes, every child in Israel is required to take bible lessons at school for 11 freaking years. They have to do that regardless of what their religion is, regardless of whether said child comes from a secular or a religious family and regardless of what kind of school they study in. Public school, private school, urban school, suburban school, it doesn’t matter. Bible studies are a required component of the Israeli education system. IT TAKES BIBLE LESSONS OR IT GETS THE HOSE AGAIN.

I’m an atheist, and I’ve been one ever since I’ve reached the age of reason. Having to spend time studying a religious book that I do not believe in has been a humiliating, insulting, infuriating and let’s not forget boring experience.

It starts when you’re in the second grade in grade school, i.e. a 7-year-old child. They get you started on Genesis. Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel. You read the book in class, in a painfully slow manner of course, and once in a while you get tested on how well you know it. To be honest that part is kinda nice and fun, just because of how easy it is. I mean, you spend so much time reading the damn book and talking about it, and then they ask you… Who was the first man that god created? Who was the first woman? Who killed Abel?

It’s kind of like watching a movie for 2 hours and then having someone ask you: Who is the protagonist of this film? Who’s the bad guy? What was the good guy trying to achieve? They’re not testing your knowledge as much as checking you for a pulse.

As the years pass, bible lessons get harder and shittier. The questions become longer and more complex. And not in a good way. As a scientist I appreciate complexity and depth, but when the subject matter is the bible, it can’t be good. The bullshit festival culminates in the final year of studying, when the kid is 18 years old and in the twelfth grade. At the end of the school year they have to pass a big matriculation test about the bible, for which they have to study for several weeks at the very least. These tests contain questions such as:

"The researcher Uriel Simon claims that there are similarities between the story of Ismael’s banishment and the Binding of Isaac. Please point out and explain three such similarities, and then two differences."

No. Fuck you.

I am outraged by the fact that I had to study this crap for 11 long years. I was so happy that it’s over and now, 9 years later, I’m still so happy that I’ll never be forced to study the bible again.

I’m very angry that I was forced to memorize the tiniest and most irrelevant details of a fantasy book which is about as relevant to my life as Lord of The Rings. I love my brain; I don’t want to be pushing useless bullshit into it. 

Hebrew. Fucking Hebrew.

Most of the people reading this post are American. You’ve probably seen the bible in English. What most Americans don’t know is that the bible in Hebrew is much harder to understand, even to people whose native tongue is Hebrew!

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What many people don’t appreciate is that the Hebrew spoken nowadays in modern-day Israel is different from the Hebrew used in the bible. One of the differences is that modern Hebrew has rules of grammar and some semblance of logical structure to each sentence, while the Hebrew used in the bible is a convoluted mess of random words thrown together with random declensions, occasional typos and sometimes entire words that are simply missing from the sentence.

The entire bible basically reads like a comment on YouTube, except it’s in Hebrew and it’s a million chapters long.

(As an aside, Modern Hebrew is a shitty language in its own right and much inferior to English, both because it’s less logical and because it has a much smaller selection of words, but that’s a topic for another post.)

So as a child growing up in Israel, you’re expected to be able to read the bible. The logic is “The kid speaks Hebrew… The bible is in Hebrew… NOW KISS!" While in fact those two Hebrews are quite different!

When the bible was translated to English, some blessed soul made sure that all the sentences make sense in the English version. For example, take this sentence out of the book of Judges:

"And Samson went down to Timnath, and saw a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines."

Straightforward. A bit repetitive but generally very clear. Samson went to a place called “Timnath” and met a daughter of the Philistines, whatever that is.

Now let’s take the Hebrew version:

"And he will go down Samson Timnath-ward and he will see a woman in Timnath-ward of the daughters of Philistines."

The fuck. The actual fuck. And a kid’s supposed to read thousands of sentences written like that and then answer a question about what various researchers said about those sentences, and if he doesn’t get a good grade on that test, he might be rejected from going to a good college even if he wants to just go and be a doctor and go help blind cancer patients in Africa from dying and never look at another bible again.

Fuck you religion.

The chapter names in Hebrew are actually kinda cool

Okay, let’s give credit where credit is due. As much as I hate the bible, I was struck by how much cooler the names of the Torah chapters are in Hebrew than they are in English.

In English you’ve got Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. Cool sounding names, but I find them rather opaque. I mean, when you see “Leviticus”, do you think “oh boy I can’t wait to see what happens in this chapter”? I don’t. They sound like they could be either a car model or an episode in a lame science fiction show.

The names in Hebrew are so much cooler!

The first chapter, that you guys call Genesis, is called in Hebrew In The Beginning. Is that the coolest fucking name for a Torah chapter you’ve ever heard or what? It kinda reminds me of “The Saga Begins”, used for Star Wars Episode I. Puts you in the mood. Now that we’re on that subject, Genesis could have used a good Jar-Jar Binks.

The second chapter, that you guys call Exodus, is called in Hebrew Names. I admit that one’s a silly name. I think it’s called that way because at some point in that chapter there’s a list of names of people, and that’s supposed to be important in some way. Who the fuck opens with “Names” when you have the escape from Egypt, the ten plagues, the Nile crossing, and the freaking ten commandments? Shows you just how much the authors of the bible knew about marketing.

The third chapter, that you guys call Leviticus, is called in Hebrew And He Will Read. I shit you not, that’s the actual name of the chapter. I guess they didn’t have enough space for “And He Will Read, Because We’re a Bunch Of Religious Fanatics Who Shove Religious Books Down The Throats of Non-Religious 7-year-old Children”. Brevity is an important thing.

Moving on, the fourth chapter begins just as the Israelites received their laws and covenant from god and are beginning their epic journey in the desert to find the promised land. It’s called… (try to read it in the voice of that guy who narrates all the Hollywood trailers…) In The Desert. Bam! I love that name. In the motherfucking desert, biatch. Shit’s going down in the desert.

The fifth and final chapter of the Torah, which you call Deuteronomy, is called Things. That’s right, the chapter is called “Things”. Not informative, but hilarious. Who calls a chapter “Things”?! This is plain genius.

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