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Zum Gali Gali Rubber Stamps

PO Box 610187, Newton Highlands MA 02461

Phone: (617) 965-1268

Fax: (617) 965-6158

E-mail: zumgali AT zumgaligali DOT com

What does Zum Gali Gali mean?

So many people have asked us that we put our answer on line!

Actually, we’re not sure. It’s 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.”

The best guess I’ve 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 “l”s 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 it’s even a record of the time when the Zionists were debating what the language of their new country would be.