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USEFUL HEBREW EXPRESSIONS

 

 

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Peace, Hello, Goodbye 

SHALOM

Nice to meet you

NA –EEM MEOD

Good morning  
Literally, “morning of light”

BOKER TOV Response: BOKER OR

Good evening

EREV TOV

Good night

LAILA TOV

Congratulations!

MAZAL TOV      

Good

TOV

Very Good

TOV MEOD  
YOFFEE  

EYZEH YOFFEE

How are things?

MA NEESHMA?

O.K.; fine (literally: in order)

BE’SEDER

Please  
You're Welcome

BEVAKASHA

Thank you

TODAH

It was nothing - my pleasure

A’LO DAVAR

Wait a moment

ROCK REYGA

See you again / later

LEHITRA’OT

Happy birthday

YOM HOOLEDET SAMEACH

Useful Hebrew Slang Words

** Note: when Hebrew is transliterated into English, the ‘ch’ is not the same as the ‘ch in chair. It is a guttural sound made at the back of the throat.

sabra “Israeli born”, literally the name of the Prickly Pear Cactus fruit. Metaphorically, it means that like the cactus fruit, Israelis are sweet on the inside, but thorny on the outside. Once you penetrate the prickly exterior you can enjoy the gentle interior. If you don’t know how to handle this fruit, it can be a painful experience!
davka (Aramaic): a term for an attitude meaning “in spite of”, or “doing the opposite of what is expected”. Example: “She is late for work, davka, because she knows I want her to be on time”, or, “I will davka cut in front of you in line, because I want to”.

tachles (Yiddish) Literally derived from the word “purpose”. It means, “bottom line, concrete, tangible”. Example: “That’s enough talk, tell me tachles…” When someone says “Let’s talk tachles”, you know they mean business.

rosh gadol – Literally “big head”, means “taking on wide responsibility or ownership of problems”. Originating in the army, this term is used to describe a leader, and is considered a very valuable trait, i.e., that of someone who takes responsibility, isn’t afraid of making decisions, takes initiatives, isn’t afraid of risks. It refers to actions beyond the call of duty or job description. Example: “She’ll make a great CEO, she is such a rosh gadol”, or “Let him organize the event, he is a rosh gadol”.

rosh katan Literally “small head”, the opposite of the previous term. It means “keeping a low profile, not doing anything beyond one’s job description, not assuming responsibility, no ambition”. Example: “What do you want from me? I’m just a rosh katan, minding my business.” 

yihehe beseder “It will be ok, things will work out”. Example: In response to, “How are things with you?” “Yihehe beseder.” 
Sources: Dahn Ben-Amotz and Netiva Ben-Yehuda, The World Dictionary of Hebrew Slang, Parts One and Two. Tel Aviv: Zmora Betan, 1982; Tamar Katriel, Talking Straight: Dugri Speech in Israeli Sabra Culture. London: Cambridge University Press, 1986.


Book Shelf 
• Rosenthal, Donna, Passport Israel: San Rafael, California, World Trade Press, 1997
• Rosenthal, Donna, The Israelis: Ordinary people in an extraordinary land, New York City, Free Press, a division of Siimon & Schuster, 2003
• Shachar, Lucy and Kurtz, David, Border Crossings: American Interactions with Israelis: Yarmouth, Maine, Intercultural Press, 1995.
• Winter, Dick, Culture Shock! Israel: A guide to customs and etiquette, Portland, Oregon, Graphic Arts Center, 1992
Online information resources
• Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs Web Site, http://www.mfa.gov.il/mfa 
• United States Central Intelligence Agency, “The World Fact Book, Israel” Web Site:
https://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/is.html 
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