10 phrases that will make you feel like a local in Israel
Language is a gateway to a culture and its always good to have some background knowledge before arriving in a new country. In this post I will teach you 10 phrases that will help you experience less of a cultural shock upon arrival in Israel. The photos are mostly of street art written in Hebrew, so you can get used to not managing to read or understand it.
When you arrive in the Middle East you will start hearing the word Yalla. Its origin is Arabic but is wildly common in the Hebrew language as well. Its meaning can range from anything from "let's go" to "oh mannnn". It's a versatile word and can be used as a filler along with a word that might sound similar, Walla which means "oh really!".
Having just landed means that you are now on vacation. Maybe you have a busy schedule, maybe you are used to getting places on time, which brings me to my next two favorite phrases Rega and Yihyeh Beseder. Rega means "a moment" and is usually said when asking you to wait. It might come with a hand gesture that you shouldn't use in Italy. The second phrase is made out of two words, Yihiye (It will be) and Beseder (OK/ good/ all in order). It means that everything will be OK and it's a strong motif in Israeli society. The bus is late? Rega, Yihyeh Beseder.
Modern Hebrew is a puzzle influenced by different languages and cultures. You will hear a lot of Hi and Bye coming from English, we spoke about the Arabic influences and the third main influence is Yiddish, a Jewish German dialect that was and is still spoken by Jews in eastern Europe. One of the most popular words coming from Yiddish is Tahles meaning "point" or "bottom line". When somebody talks too much you can say Ma Hatahles? Another word coming from Russian and Persian is Balagan, which means mess, and this is something that you should expect when coming to Israel. In the market, at the beach, Balagan everywhere.
If you are going to survive public transport there are 2 phrases you need to know. Rav Kav is the name of the magnetic card that is charged with money for fairs. Hatahana Habaa (Next stop) Its often announced on trams, buses and trains and will help you understand that the following phrase is the name of the stop that you may need to get off at.
Let's talk business. You always need to know two things: where are the bathrooms and how much does this cost? Efo HaSherutim means "where are the bathrooms?" (mostly they are free of charge and you can ask nicely to go potty in coffee shops) and Kama Zeh Oleh meaning "How much does this cost?". In Arab style markets, don't take the answer for a done deal and be sure to start bargaining about goods you want to purchase.
You may love the sense of your tongue being on fire and you are in the right country for that. You may be the complete opposite. Either way you will want to know how to tell the falafel guy if you want your food spicy or not. Harif means spicy, Im (with), Bli (without). Read about Israeli street foods you have to try!
You may have noticed that I didn't mention any niceties like hello and thank you. That is because Israelis… well, we are not the most polite people. Israelis tend to be direct and won't be offended if you don't say thank you or goodnight. One of the things I love most about this country is how sincere Israel's are so you won't be getting any fake smiles or kind words without intent. If you do want to bring some manners to Israel, here are some words to know: Shalom (Hello, goodbye, see you later, peace)
Boker Tov (Good Morning) Layla Tov (Good night)
Toda (Thanks) Bevaskasha (You're welcome) Sliha (Excuse me)
Ma Koreh? (Whats up?)
We all know how confusing it can be to try and grasp a new language especially when the written text is totally unfamiliar. So I hope this guide will help you feel a little more Babayit (at home), even when you are on an adventure. Do you know these 3 cultural rules to have in mind when meeting Israelis? Feel free to Contact us directly for any questions about Israeli culture and travel.
About the writer, Anna Kreynin
Anna is a licensed tour guide, an artist, a french fry eater, a dog petter and above all a storyteller. She is in love with Jerusalem and she can tell you all about it.