"Are they Jewish/Hebrew?"
"Why, yes they are."
Both Molly and I wanted the girls to have Hebrew names. Yael was a pretty easy choice, Merav took some work. Time for a little secret. While Molly was pregnant with Merav, the Red Robin in Des Peres opened. We tried it and we like Red Robin. Like many restaurants, Red Robin has a birthday club. Merav was a member under the name M.S. for two years because when I signed everyone up, Merav had a tentative birth date (planned C-sections let you do that) and initials but not a name.
Yael is named for her Grandfathers who she never had the chance to meet. Molly has always wanted to name a child for her father, I.J. Zuckerman. Molly's father died in 1981. I.J. stood for Israel Joseph, a name he used on his birth certificate and his army dog tags. It was I.J. on everything else. My father was Darwin Lee Portman. He died in 2001.
Once we knew we were going to have a girl, the rest was pretty easy. Yael Devorah.
Yael, is the Hebrew word for gazelle or to ascend. We like pointing out the gazelles at the zoo for Yael. Yael is also in the Bible. In Judges, chapter 4, there is the story of Yael. The full text is below, but here is the short form:
Yael was with Barak's army at Mt. Tabor. Yael went to the opposing general's tent and gave him a drink of milk that put him to sleep. She then drove a tent spike through his head. Thus, the 900 chariot army that was going to invade Israel was stopped.
1 And the children of Israel again did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, when Ehud was dead. 2 And the LORD gave them over into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan, that reigned in Hazor; the captain of whose host was Sisera, who dwelt in Harosheth-goiim. 3 And the children of Israel cried unto the LORD; for he had nine hundred chariots of iron; and twenty years he mightily oppressed the children of Israel.
4 Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, she judged Israel at that time. 5 And she sat under the palm-tree of Deborah between Ramah and Beth-el in the hill-country of Ephraim; and the children of Israel came up to her for judgment. 6 And she sent and called Barak the son of Abinoam out of Kedesh-naphtali, and said unto him: 'Hath not the LORD, the God of Israel, commanded, saying: Go and draw toward mount Tabor, and take with thee ten thousand men of the children of Naphtali and of the children of Zebulun? 7 And I will draw unto thee to the brook Kishon Sisera, the captain of Jabin's army, with his chariots and his multitude; and I will deliver him into thy hand. 8 And Barak said unto her: 'If thou wilt go with me, then I will go; but if thou wilt not go with me, I will not go.' 9 And she said: 'I will surely go with thee; notwithstanding the journey that thou takest shall not be for thy honour; for the LORD will give Sisera over into the hand of a woman.' And Deborah arose, and went with Barak to Kedesh. 10 And Barak called Zebulun and Naphtali together to Kedesh; and there went up ten thousand men at his feet; and Deborah went up with him. 11 Now Heber the Kenite had severed himself from the Kenites, even from the children of Hobab the father-in-law of Moses, and had pitched his tent as far as Elon-bezaanannim, which is by Kedesh. 12 And they told Sisera that Barak the son of Abinoam was gone up to mount Tabor. 13 And Sisera gathered together all his chariots, even nine hundred chariots of iron, and all the people that were with him, from Harosheth-goiim, unto the brook Kishon. 14 And Deborah said unto Barak: 'Up; for this is the day in which the LORD hath delivered Sisera into thy hand; is not the LORD gone out before thee?' So Barak went down from mount Tabor, and ten thousand men after him. 15 And the LORD discomfited Sisera, and all his chariots, and all his host, with the edge of the sword before Barak; and Sisera alighted from his chariot, and fled away on his feet. 16 But Barak pursued after the chariots, and after the host, unto Harosheth-goiim; and all the host of Sisera fell by the edge of the sword; there was not a man left. 17 Howbeit Sisera fled away on his feet to the tent of Yael the wife of Heber the Kenite; for there was peace between Jabin the king of Hazor and the house of Heber the Kenite. 18 And Yael went out to meet Sisera, and said unto him: 'Turn in, my lord, turn in to me; fear not.' And he turned in unto her into the tent, and she covered him with a rug. 19 And he said unto her: 'Give me, I pray thee, a little water to drink; for I am thirsty.' And she opened a bottle of milk, and gave him drink, and covered him. 20 And he said unto her: 'Stand in the door of the tent, and it shall be, when any man doth come and inquire of thee, and say: Is there any man here? that thou shalt say: No.' 21 Then Yael Heber's wife took a tent-pin, and took a hammer in her hand, and went softly unto him, and smote the pin into his temples, and it pierced through into the ground; for he was in a deep sleep; so he swooned and died. 22 And, behold, as Barak pursued Sisera, Yael came out to meet him, and said unto him: 'Come, and I will show thee the man whom thou seekest.' And he came unto her; and, behold, Sisera lay dead, and the tent-pin was in his temples. 23 So God subdued on that day Jabin the king of Canaan before the children of Israel. 24 And the hand of the children of Israel prevailed more and more against Jabin the king of Canaan, until they had destroyed Jabin king of Canaan.
A google of Yael will find several interesting sites. One is the homepage of professor Yael Algom Kfir of the University of Utah. From her page, there is a link to the story of Yael from the Bricktestement, a different view of the Bible.
In Israel, Yael is a fairly common girls name. There is a popular singer named Yael, there is a print artist named Yael, and of course, Yael has a cousin in Israel named Yael.
Merav is not that common a name in Israel. The more common English translation in Meirav. There is a physics professor, Merav Opher at George Mason University. Merav means "to increase" in Hebrew. Merav does not rate a story in the bible, (sorry Merav) just a sentence:
1 Samuel 14:49
"Now the sons of Saul were Jonathan, and Ishvi, and Malchi-shua; and the names of his two daughters were these: the name of the first-born Merav, and the name of the younger Michal;"
Molly and I have a great many relatives with the initials M or S. There is Merav's great grandfather Morris Changar and Max Portman, her great, great grandfather who moved the Portman's from Russia to America. There are her great aunts Sarah and Sue and her great grandmother Sarah. And there is Alan and Molly's good friend Mike Sarnoff.
Bible passages from The Hebrew Bible in English.