Sinking feeling

Hebrew Academy picks ‘sinkhole’ as its word of 2022

Selected by online voters, word narrowly beats out ‘governance’ and ‘hallucination’ to take the top spot

Amy Spiro is a reporter and writer with The Times of Israel

Police at the site of a sinkhole on the Ayalon Highway in Tel Aviv on September 17, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
Police at the site of a sinkhole on the Ayalon Highway in Tel Aviv on September 17, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

The Academy of the Hebrew Language has announced its word of the year 2022 to mark the end of the year and the upcoming annual Hebrew Language Day: sinkhole.

The Hebrew word for sinkhole, bol’an, was selected as the top pick by thousands of online voters. It narrowly beat out the other top contenders: meshilut, best translated as governance, and hazaya, which means hallucination or outlandishness, and is often used in Hebrew to refer to “an unthinkable situation.”

Sinkhole received 25% of the online vote, with governance in second place at 21%, outlandishness getting 14% and chemla, or compassion, picking up only 9%.

The word was chosen from among the top nine contenders that were presented to the public after being narrowed down from dozens of submissions.

The Academy said the word bol’an — rooted in the Hebrew word for “swallowing” — entered usage in the 1960s as a replacement for the then-commonly used foreign word doline.

In recent months, a number of sinkholes gained headlines after appearing in several locations in central Israel, including a major highway, fueling fears that such incidents could become more widespread.

In September, a large sinkhole opened up on the major Ayalon Highway in Tel Aviv, shutting down the highway completely for hours and leaving a main exit shuttered for two weeks.

Last month, two other sinkholes were discovered on roadways in Tel Aviv. Over the summer, a man was killed after the swimming pool he was in collapsed and he was dragged into a sinkhole that formed underneath.

Last year, a sinkhole opened up in the parking lot of the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, swallowing several cars. They are also common occurrences around the Dead Sea, caused after receding saltwater leaves behind underground salt deposits, which are later dissolved by rainwater or flash floods, causing the land above to collapse.

Most Popular
read more: