Serious fans of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series might recall that in the book Order of the Phoenix, the character Sirius Black parodies a Christmas song, “God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen” (“God Rest Ye, Merry Hippogriffs”).
Readers in Israel, however, who may not be as familiar with the traditional holiday song, read something else.
“Most of my readers were probably Jewish, and there’s no standard, recognizable Hebrew translation for Christmas Carols, so I substituted a well-known Chanukah song,” Gili Bar Hillel, the Hebrew translator of the series, told Entertainment Weekly. The song, “Mi Yimallel (Gvurot Yisrael),” was intended to allow Jewish readers relate.
“There were fans who ridiculed this and said that I was trying to convert Harry to Judaism, but really the point was just to convey the cheer and festivity of making up words to a holiday song,” she says. “I don’t think any of the characters come off as obviously Christian, other than in a vague sort of cultural way, so I didn’t feel it was a huge deal if I substituted one seasonal holiday for another!”
She also struggled to find the right Hebrew phrase of “Pensieve,” a container to store memories. “Translating puns and humor is creative work, and sometimes it’s hard to be inspired when working under tons of pressure and a constant barrage of criticism,” Hillel says. It took her weeks to come up with her translation for Pensieve. In Hebrew, it became “Hagigit,” a portmanteau of “hagig” — a fleeting idea — and “gigit” — a washtub.
It seems that author J.K. Rowling doesn’t mind the liberties Hillel took. Reports JTA, the non-Jewish British writer has recently become a vocal critic of anti-Semitism, using Twitter to identify and rebuke anti-Semitism and calling upon UK non-Jews to start “shouldering the burden.”
Most UK Jews in my timeline are currently having to field this kind of crap, so perhaps some of us non-Jews should start shouldering the burden. Antisemites thinks this is a clever argument, so tell us, do: were atheist Jews exempted from wearing the yellow star? #antisemitism pic.twitter.com/H5xLLXTdQO
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) April 18, 2018
And, says JTA, in her newest novel, Lethal White, she includes a character whose obsessive anti-Zionism morphs into anti-Semitism, a depiction that comes at a time of record high anti-Semitism in Britain.