What does Zum Gali Gali mean?
So many people have asked us that we put our answer on line!
Actually, were not sure. Its the refrain of a song that was sung by the Zionist pioneers in Palestine before it was Israel. Arlene and I learned it in synagogue youth groups in the 50s. We just learned the refrain as nonsense syllables that went with a Hebrew verse that means something like The pioneer and work are made for each other (and another verse that means something like the pioneer and his girl are made for each other.)
The best guess Ive been able to come up with is that it means To Galilee. A lot of the early Zionist pioneers settled in Galilee, known in Hebrew as Ha Galil, The Galil. In Yiddish, To the Galil would be Zu dem Galil, and Zu dem contracts to Zum. If you sing Zum Galil, Galil a couple of times you'll lose the final ls and end up with Zum Gali Gali.
One weak point in my logic is that in Yiddish Zum would be pronounced tzum. I think the t could easily have been lost somewhere between Tiberias or Safed and New York. You know how it is with folk songs -- someone who's thinking of German spelling conventions writes it down, and someone who's not familiar with that spelling reads it.
Another weak point is that it would mean that the chorus is in Yiddish and the verse is in Hebrew. I hang out with people who will throw Yiddish and Hebrew phrases into their conversation without any warning, so I think having two languages in one song is entirely plausible. Perhaps its even a record of the time when the Zionists were debating what the language of their new country would be.