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April 16, 2015 7:19 am

Croatian Soccer Star’s Hebrew Tattoo Causes a Stir Online

avatar by David Daoud

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Mario Mandzukic's backwards Hebrew tattoo has become an internet sensation. PHOTO: EPA

A Hebrew tattoo sported by Croatian soccer star Mario Mandzukic became an internet sensation in Israel after it was exposed on Tuesday during a Champions League match between Ateltico Madrid and Real Madrid

A first glance, the tattoo, on the athlete’s back, might leave one with the impression that it was an unfortunate artistic mistake, since the Hebrew letters do not make sense as they are written. However, a closer look at the tattoo shows that it was actually written backwards and says, “What does not kill me, strengthens me.”

It would seem that the striker, and his tattoo artist, weren’t aware that Hebrew is written from right to left, and that they had no one to advise on how to have the tattoo properly written.

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  • I might get one like that! Honestly!

  • right to left, thought everyone knew that!

  • Golum

    I think possibly he’s a “Reconstructionist Jew” and won’t admit it!!!

  • Jack

    He has to live with it, but at least the thought was appropriate.

  • Jack HOLAN

    This man deserves huge credit considering just how much much anything connected to us on or off the field of sport is loved. The meaning of the phrase that is written is very powerful and true of our people. I cannot read another mans soul but I hope that was his intent.

  • ‘Beckham Bieber Styles syndrome’?

  • Daniel G. Morris

    Perhaps he is a Hebrew scholar, and performed a “prison style” tattoo on himself, using a mirror (since he can’ directly observe his male “tramp-stamp” zone, and forgot about the “da Vinci” effect of the mirror? Or maybe he’s a Hebrew scholar and a Kabbalist and intended the da Vinci effect as part of the tattoo’s magical power to confuse, confound and defeat his soccer and personal enemies and rivals…

  • Lauren Goldman

    Despite the confused directionality of the words, the fact that he has a Hebrew tattoo is rather brave, given that Croatia has not been a population with much love for Jews. Be safe, Mario.

  • TygerEyez

    My take on this is that the tattoo was written backwards intentionally.

    If a tattoo artist is provided or obtains a phrase in a foreign language, their literacy or lack thereof in that tongue should have no impact on their ability to faithfully copy the characters found on the exemplar sheet; as the artist is only making a duplicate of what is printed on the paper, his or her knowledge of the direction the language is read in should no more result in Hebrew words being written backwards than in Chinese words (which are read from top to bottom) being written upside down.

    My take on this is that the tattoo artist was commissioned to ink the phrase in reverse for the same reason that “ECNALUBMA” is printed on the front of emergency rescue vehicles: so that it can be read properly by its intended audience (the driver in front of the ambulance) who will be seeing the mirror image of the word in his rear view and will know to give way to the ambulance behind him.

    Printed normally, the phrase would be backwards to its intended audience; inked in reverse, the message becomes gibberish to everyone else, but perfectly legible to the one person in the world only able to see the tattoo by looking at in the mirror: Mr. Mandzukic himself.

    • ricardo

      TygerEyez – interesting idea. But wrong, since the letteres which aren’t symmetrical are reversed in “ambulance” so they appear normal in a mirror. In this case the presentation was reversed, but the letters appear correctly, suggesting that perhaps the artist was transliterating. Or that there is some more obscure meaning. Dyslexia?

      • wayne

        I think Ricardo is correct. But TygerEyez raises an interesting topic: for Mr. Mandzukic to view his epidermal art without contorting himself, he’d need two mirrors: one in front of him so he could face forward, and another behind him to reflect his self into the front mirror being viewed (think of wardrobe shop). From this view, would the image appear correct in all respects?



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    Let’s wear haman’s head on Purim