The story was told me by an American who was traveling in Israel several years ago when his rented car began to stall. Suspecting (rightly, as it turned out) that the carburetor needed tuning, he pulled in at a gas station to look for a mechanic. He knew hardly any Hebrew, but having in his possession one of those foreign-language phrase books that specialize in emergencies of all kinds, he opened to the section on “going by car,” found the appropriate phrase, and painstakingly read aloud to the attendant on duty: “A-NEE ho-SHEV sheh-YESH letah-KEHN et [I think an adjustment is needed in] hah-meh-ah-YEHD.” The response was a blank stare. He tried again; again the same reaction. At which point, despairing of his obviously garbled diction, he lifted the hood of the car and pointed directly at the part in question. The mechanic was instantly enlightened. “Ah,” he beamed, “ha-kahr-bu-RAH-tor!”—and the trouble was soon taken care of.
Usage can change quickly in Israel, and by now the word me'ayed (literally “vaporizer,” from the Biblical ed, “vapor,” which occurs in the plural form in the second chapter of Genesis) may circulate more widely, yet the incident does point to a reality of which not only the occasional tourist but any new resident of Israel who has had to struggle with the problem of communication is well aware, namely, that there are in fact two Hebrew languages in existence today, one that is supposedly spoken and one that generally is. The first, which is limited in its pure form to a small band of philological zealots, is among other things practically free of foreign loan-words, for which it substitutes a large assortment of native Hebraisms, some of ancient vintage, many recently coined. The second, on the other hand, is flooded with borrowings from abroad.