Hebrew letters

Almost a year ago I began to learn Hebrew.  Among the various challenges that a semitic language provides for someone only familiar with German/English/Russian, I initially found it very hard to read hebrew texts. But I than put more effort in learning to read, and at home with the text books from the school and with the help of the Rosen School of Hebrew I managed to improve. What I have not considered, though, are all the possible variations in the character style that you find outside of the class room. Whereas at the school, we got used to a standard character type (similar to the one you might find in religious books), the written language that I was confronted now in Israel is much more variable. It is influenced – as in any other language as well – by the attempt to look special by a cool design. But in ones own language, one almost overlooks all these typografic variations in the text style. More or less unconsciously, we immediately extract the content of the words, and pay little attention to the specific style of the characters.

But in a foreign language, in particular if you are still in the early learning phase, the different ways how the characters are designed are a constant source of miss-reading.

Here are a couple of frequently used style variations of the letter “Shin” that you can find within 10 min walking through any mayor city in Israel:


Common variants of the letter “Shin” in modern writings. (Bottom left is the classical style one might find in the Tora)


Also very variable is the typografie of the letter “Lamed”. Oddly enough, some variants even resemble German runes as were used by the notorious anti-semitic SS.


Variations in typografie of the letter “Lamed” commonly used in modern writings. The one in the middle of the lower lane again is classical Tora style.


These are the original sign-posts from which I collected the two letters.  You can see, they come from swimming pools, elevators, car-parks, fire extinguishers, pre-election campaign posters, number plates of cars and others.

Hebrew Signs


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