Translatable but Debatable: קליטה (klita)

Those of us who came here from another country were handled by the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption and then were expected, over the course of some years, to integrate into Israeli society.  It is strange to be first absorbed and only then integrated; absorption sounds much more thorough, as if it leaves no distinguishable trace of you.  I think English-speakers tend not even to say they have been, or are being, absorbed, what with the connotation of fading completely into a larger thing in an apotheosis like Joe Hill’s or Tom Joad’s.  But משרד קליטת העליה is the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption, and that’s official.

Businesses perform קליטה all the time too, as they bring in new employees, so some businesses adopt the word absorption and it’s got to rub an English-speaking recruit the wrong way.  We don’t so much mind being absorbed into the noble Jewish state, but to think of  your identity dissolving around the edges as you become part of, say, Srigamish? — It may be a fine company but the concept is disturbing.

So what do we call the process by which a person becomes a comfortable and knowledgeable member of the company workforce?  It can be a long process.  When I went to work at Elbit in the 1970s, there was even a human-resources interview at the one-year point.

The word list distributed informally by Nina Davis defines קליטת עובד as “employee orientation (comes after employee processing).”  Another common term is employee induction. But common though it is, I think that what induction brings to mind isn’t usually an everyday civilian job.  Merriam-Webster calls it the act or process of inducting (as into office), an initial experience / initiation, or the formality by which a civilian is inducted into military service.  As examples, the page gives a bishop’s induction, an induction ceremony at a banquet hall, and the induction of draftees.  If you’ve been through army induction, it’s not what you want to be reminded of when you start a new job.

While the notion of an orientation period is familiar, I’m not sure that taken alone, the word orientation hints at more than a peremptory lecture or two.

If I were in human resources, I’d call it an employee welcoming process, but having consulted Google, I can present that neither as my own unique idea nor as a popular one.  A term perhaps too new for the Hebrew-to-English dictionaries, but with a couple of hundred thousand Google hits, is employee onboarding or employee on-boarding: ugly but sufficiently self-explanatory and sufficiently vague to cover a short process or a long one.

What’s your opinion on translating the concept of קליטה at the workplace?  Feel free to comment below on the issue.  If you’d like to raise any other issue, please don’t use the space below but write me at .

Mark L. Levinson

Born 1948 a few trolley stops from Boston, Massachusetts. Bachelor's degree from Harvard College. Moved to Israel in 1970. Worked and learned Hebrew on Kibbutz Ramat Hashofet. Moved to Haifa and worked teaching English to adults. Did similar work in the army. After discharge, turned to technical writing, initially for Elbit. Then promotional writing for Scitex, and more technical (and occasionally promotional) writing for Edunetics, Daisy Systems (later named Dazix, SEE Technologies, and Summit Design), Memco, and Gilian. Also translated from Hebrew to English, everything from business articles to fiction, filmscripts, and poetry. Served as local chapter president for the Society for Technical Communication, editor of several issues of local literary journals, occasional political columnist and book reviewer for the Jerusalem Post, and husband & father.