Today’s word, ‘be•tza•lim,’ is the plural of ‘bav•tzal,’ onion. Unlike the melon, this word is biblical and has not changed to this very day. This vegetable appears in the Bible only once and in its plural form:
“We remember the fish, which we ate in Egypt for nothing; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlic”
The formal name of onion in Hebrew is ‘ba•tzal ha•gi•na,’ garden’s onion. Ba•tzal is also the general name of the thick root of other plants, from which the leaves grow. Another name associated with onion is ‘ba•tzal ya•rok,’ spring onion or scallion.
Onion in a Hebrew first Name
The word ‘ba•tzal’ appears in the Bible as the construct form name: Be•tzal•el (Bezalel in English). As such, it means ‘God’s root.’ According to some scholars it means: ‘in the shadow (i.e. protection) of God.’ This translation requires a little stretch since you need to break this name into three parts: ‘be’ is ‘in’ or ‘at’; ‘tzel’ is ‘shaddow’ (and it is not ‘tzal’ as it is in the name); and ‘El’ is ‘God.’ There is really nothing to support this translation except for the unease of thinking of Be•tzal•el as ‘God’s onion’ or ‘root.’