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A Guide to Hebrew Phone Words and Phrases

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Does the thought of having a phone conversation in a foreign language put you on edge?

Making and receiving phone calls in one’s mother tongue can be stressful enough, but doing so in a foreign language represents a particular brand of challenge. In fact, it’s rather common to feel comfortable having an in-person conversation in a foreign language but to become shaky when it comes to handling phone calls in that language. If you give it a bit of thought, it’s easy to see why a Hebrew phone conversation may be a taller order for language learners than a face-to-face conversation.

For starters, experts claim that much of our communication is non-verbal. In the context of a traditional phone call, you can see just how tricky things can get when we’re confined to abstract spoken language, without the ability to reference non-verbal cues such as facial expressions or hand gestures. This is particularly true in the Middle East, where locals tend to use their hands as moving punctuation marks. While the increasing availability of video call technology means you might be lucky enough to see your interlocutor, there’s no indication that the old-fashioned phone call is going anywhere soon. It’s a good idea to learn phone call phrases and to practice phone conversations in Hebrew so you’re well-prepared when the moment comes.

Phone calls also tend to be more difficult as they introduce added potential for external communication obstacles. Depending on the devices being used for the call, any existing background or ambient noise, the speakers’ voices and volume level, and the quality of the connection itself, you may well be straining to hear or understand your interlocutor. Of course, you’ll want to ensure you can have a clear connection when you do conduct Hebrew phone calls, but practicing phone call-related language can help you “fill in the blanks,” even when the connection isn’t great or the speaker is a low talker.

In today’s lesson, we’ll take a look at the top 30 phrases for having a telephone conversation in Hebrew, including how to introduce yourself, how to ask to speak with someone, how to ask for clarification or repetition, and, of course, how to wrap things up at the end of a call. By the time you finish reading, you’ll have all the tools you need to effectively communicate over the phone in Hebrew!

Woman at Computer on Phone
Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Hebrew Table of Contents
  1. Picking up the Phone
  2. Saying Who You Are
  3. Stating/Asking the Reason for the Call
  4. Asking to Speak to Someone
  5. Asking Someone to Wait
  6. Leaving a Message
  7. Asking for Clarification
  8. Ending the Phone Call
  9. Sample Phone Conversations
  10. Phone a friend: You can call on HebrewPod101 to help you learn all the Hebrew you’ll ever need.

1. Picking up the Phone

Close Up of Woman Answering Phone

The first set of Hebrew phone call phrases you ought to study are the greetings. 

When the phone rings, you want to feel totally comfortable picking it up, regardless of who may be at the other end of the line or what time of day it is. 

While there are numerous ways to answer the phone or begin a conversation when someone else picks up, the following is a solid list of common words and phrases for picking up the phone in Hebrew. You can use the first two at any time, while the following three are time-specific. 

Note the particular way Israelis pronounce the first word, with a short “a” sound like that in “car.”

1. הלו?
Halo? (*can often sound more like “alo”)
“Hello?”

2. שלום
Shalom
“Hello” (literally: “Peace”)

3. בוקר טוב
Boker tov
“Good morning”

4. צהריים טובים
Tzohorayim tovim
“Good afternoon”

5. ערב טוב
Erev tov
“Good evening”

2. Saying Who You Are

Man Activating Headset

Now that you know how to answer the phone in Hebrew, the next step is learning to introduce yourself properly. As in English-speaking and other cultures, it is customary for the caller to identify themselves after using one of the greetings above. 

Once again, there are multiple ways to do this. For the purposes of today’s lesson, we’ll just look at the more common and basic forms used for self-introductions over the phone. Obviously, you would fill in the blank in any of these options with your own name. 

It’s worth noting that there is nothing wrong with identifying yourself first and then using one of the above greetings as an alternative way of answering the phone. Note that Hebrew syntax can be quite different from what we’re used to in English, as you’ll see in some of the examples below where the subject comes after the verb or adverb.

6. כאן ____.
Kan ____.
“____ here.”

  • כאן רות.
    Kan Rut.
    “Ruth here.”

7. מדבר/ת _____.
Medaber/et _____.
“This is _____ speaking.”

  • מדבר שי.
    Medaber Shai.
    “This is Shai speaking.”
  • מדברת ליאת.
    Medaberet Li’at.
    “This is Liat speaking.”

8. זה/זו _____.
Zeh/zo ___.
“This is ____.”

  • זה חנן.
    Zeh Khanan.
    “This is Chanan.”
  • זו שלומית.
    Zo Shlomit.
    “This is Shlomit.”

9. שמי ____.
Shemi _____.
“My name is _____.”

  • שמי דנה.
    Shemi Danah.
    “My name is Dana.”

3. Stating/Asking the Reason for the Call

Man on Phone Writing on Notepad

Next, we’ll typically indicate the reason for our call if we’re the one who initiated contact, or else we may ask the caller what they need or how we can help. This is true whether we’re calling a government agency for public information or if we’re dialing a friend to see if they feel like going to the park to play soccer. 

There are a multitude of possibilities here, but let’s have a look at the top ways to state or ask the reason for a phone call in Hebrew.

10. הגעתי ל_____?
Higa’ti l_____?
“Is this _____?”

  • הגעתי לשרות לקוחות?
    Higa’ti le-sherut lekokhot?
    “Is this customer service?”

11. רציתי לדעת אם _____.
Ratziti lada’at im ____.
“I’d like to know if ____.”

  • רציתי לדעת אם יש לכם תוכנית תשלומים.
    Ratziti lada’at im yeish lakhem tokhnit tashlumim.
    “I’d like to know if you offer a payment plan.”

12. אני מתקשר/ת אל ____ בחזרה.
Ani mitkasher/et el _____ be-khazarah.
“I’m returning ______’s call.”

  • אני מתקשר אל רון בחזרה.
    Ani mitkasher el Ron be-khazarah.
    “I’m returning Ron’s call.”

13. במה אוכל לעזור לך?
Be-mah ukhal la’azor lekha/lakh?
“How can I help you?”

4. Asking to Speak to Someone

Man Pointing to Cell Phone

Oftentimes, we place a call intending to reach someone in particular. However, we may or may not reach that person directly. If someone else picks up the phone, we want to be equipped with the proper language to ask for the person we’re calling. Here are some of the more common ways of doing so in Hebrew. Note that the final option is a good one when we’re looking for a specific department or office rather than a specific person.

14. אפשר לדבר עם _____?
Efshar ledaber ‘im ____?
“Could I speak to ____?”

  • אפשר לדבר עם חגית?
    Efshar ledaber ‘im Khagit?
    “Could I speak to Chagit?”

15. אני מחפש/ת את ____.
Ani mekhapes/et et ____.
“I’m looking for ____.”

  • אני מחפשת את שירלי.
    Ani mekhapeset et Shirli.
    “I’m looking for Shirli.”

16. האם ____ נמצא/ת?
Ha’im ______ nimtza/nimtzeit?
“Is _____ there?”

  • האם יגאל נמצא?
    Ha’im Yig’al nimtza?
    “Is Yigal there?”

17. תוכל/י להעביר אותי ל____?
Tukhal/Tukhli leha’avir oti le-_____?
“Could you transfer me to _____?”

  • תוכלי להעביר אותי למחלקת התלונות שלכם?
    Tukhli leha’avir oti le-makhleket ha-telunot shelakhem?
    “Could you transfer me to your complaints department?

5. Asking Someone to Wait

Woman with Phone Checking Watch

If we pick up the phone and the caller is seeking a specific department or person, we may need to ask them to wait while we transfer them to the right place. Alternatively, we may be asked to wait for the person, department, or office we’re trying to reach. In either case, we’d be wise to have a strong grasp of the relevant language for such a situation. Here are some common ways to handle it.

18. רק רגע, בבקשה.
Rak rega’, bevakashah.
“Just a moment, please.”

19. המתן/המתיני על הקו בבקשה.
Hamten/Hamtini ‘al ha-kav bevakashah.
“Please hold the line.”

20. אל תנתק/תנתקי בבקשה.
Al tenatek/tenatki bevakashah.
“Don’t hang up, please.”

6. Leaving a Message

Finger Pressing Keypad on Phone

Another key skill for good Hebrew phone conversations is asking to leave a message, which more often than not entails asking the person we were looking for to call us back. Here are some of the top ways to do this in Hebrew.

21. אפשר להשאיר לו/לה הודעה?
Efshar lehashir lo/lah hoda’ah?
“Can I leave him/her a message?”

22. תוכל/י לומר לו/לה שיחזור/שתחזור אליי?
Tukhal/Tukhli lomar lo/lah she-yakhzor/she-takhzor elay?
“Could you have him/her call me back?”

23. אנא התקשר/י אליי מאוחר יותר.
Ana hitkasher/hitkashri elay me’ukhar yoter.
“Please call me back later.”

7. Asking for Clarification

Woman on Phone with Palm against Forehead

Now that we’ve seen some essential language for Hebrew phone calls, let’s look at a crucial element of any conversation: asking for clarification. 

Whether due to a lack of experience making phone calls in Hebrew, the technical nature of our phone call, or even a bad connection, we may find ourselves unable to understand what was just said on the phone. In any event, it’s always good to know how to ask the other person to repeat or clarify what they’ve said. 

Here are the more common ways of asking for clarification during Hebrew phone conversations.

24. תוכל/תוכלי לחזור על זה שוב?
Tukhal/Tukhli lakhzor ‘al zeh shuv?
“Could you repeat that?”

25. לא שומעים טוב. עוד פעם?
Lo shom’im tov. ‘Od pa’am?
“I can’t hear you well. What was that?”

26. סליחה. שוב?
Slikhah. Shuv?
“Sorry. Come again?”

8. Ending the Phone Call

Phone being Hung Up

Last but certainly not least, you’ll want to know how to wrap up a phone call in Hebrew. The best way to do so will vary depending on the circumstances of the call in question, so here are four phrases you can draw on when you’re winding down a phone call.

27. תודה. עזרת לי מאוד.
Todah. Azarta/Azart li me’od.
“Thanks. You’ve been a great help.”

28. אז נדבר ____.
Az nedaber ____.
“So let’s speak ____.”

29. שיהיה לך יום נעים/ערב טוב.
She-yehiyeh lekha/lakh yom na’im/’erev tov.
“Have a nice day/good night.”

30. להתראות.
Lehitra’ot.
“Goodbye.” / “See you later.”

9. Sample Phone Conversations

Cell Phone with Different Icons Hovering above It

Now let’s piece it all together and have a look at a couple of brief sample Hebrew phone conversations, one informal and the other formal. Even though Hebrew does not use different grammar to distinguish between higher and lower registers (like Spanish and French do, for instance), it’s possible to adopt a more or less formal tone based on word choice, much the way English works.

The first conversation is between two friends, so the tone is familiar and friendly. The second call simulates making a reservation at a restaurant, so you’ll note that the tone is slightly more formal. That said, most spoken Modern Hebrew is relatively informal compared to other languages, even in exchanges between strangers.

1. Shai makes plans to get together with a friend

Man Holding Schedule

-הלו?
Halo?
“Hello?”

-שלום, רון. זה שי.
Shalom, Ron. Zeh Shai.
“Hi, Ron. This is Shai.”

-היי, שי. מה נשמע?
Hay, Shai. Mah nishmah?
“Hi, Shai. What’s up?”

-הכל טוב. מה איתך?
Ha-kol tov. Mah itkha?
“Everything’s good. What’s up with you?”

-אצלי הכל בסדר. תודה. מה קורה?
Etzli ha-kol beseder. Todah. Mah koreh?
“Everything’s good with me. Thanks. What’s going on?”

-רציתי לדעת אם בא לך לצאת לאכול בסופ”ש.
Ratziti lada’at im ba lekha latzeit le’ekhol ba-sofash.
“I wanted to know if you feel like going out for brunch this weekend.”

-וואלה. אשמח. אל תנתק, אני רק בודק את היומן שלי.
Wallah. Esmakh. Al tenatek. Ani rak bodek et ha-yoman sheli.
“Yeah. I’d be happy to. Don’t hang up. I’m just checking my schedule.”

-אוקיי.
Okay.
“Okay.”

-אז אני פנוי בשבת בבוקר מ-11:00 והלאה.
Az ani panuy be-Shabbat ba-boker me-akhat-esreh ve-hal’ah.
“So, I’m free Saturday morning from 11:00 onwards.”

-אחלה, בא נקבע ל-11:30 במקום הקבוע שלנו.
Akhlah, bo nikba’ le-akhat-esreh-va-khetzi ba-makom ha-kavu’a shelanu.
“Great, let’s set it for 11:30 in our usual place.”

-בסדר גמור. רשמתי.
Be-seder gamur. Rashamti.
“Absolutely. I wrote it down.”

-יופי. אז נדבר בסופ”ש.
Yofi. Az nedaber ba-sofash.
“Nice. So let’s talk this weekend.”

-נשמע טוב, חבר. שיהיה לך ערב טוב.
Nishma’ tov, khaver. She-yihiyeh lekha ‘erev tov.
“Sounds good, buddy. Have a good evening.”

-גם לך. להתראות.
Gam lekha. Lehitra’ot.
“You too. See you.”

2. Shai reserves a table at Lavan Restaurant

Waiter Holding Plates

-שלום. הגעתי למסעדת לבן?
Shalom. Higa’ti le-mis’edet Lavan?
“Hello. Is this the Lavan Restaurant?”

-צהריים טובים. כן, כאן לירון במסעדת לבן. במה אוכל לעזור לך?
Tzohorayim tovim. Ken, kan Liron mi-mis’edet Lavan- Be-mah ukhal la’azor lekha?
“Good afternoon. Yes, this is Liron at Lavan. How can I help you?”

-אני רוצה להזמין שולחן לשניים בבקשה.
Ani rotzeh lehazmin shulkhan le-shnayim bevakashah.
“I’d like to reserve a table for two, please.”

-אין בעיה. יום ושעה, בבקשה?
Ein ba’ayah. Yom ve-sha’ah bevakashah?
“No problem. Day and time, please?”

-יום שבת ב-11:30. על שם שי בבקשה.
Yom Shabbat be-akhat-esreh va-khetzi. ‘Al shem Shai bevakashah.
“Saturday at 11:30. Under Shai, please.”

-אוקיי, אני רושמת. זהו, רשום. עוד משהו?
Okay, ani roshemet. Zehu, rashum. ‘Od mashehu?
“Okay, I’m entering it in. That’s it, you’re registered. Anything else?”

-כן, רק הייתי רוצה לבקש את השולחן בפינה, עם נוף לעמק.
Ken, rak hayiti rotzeh levakesh et ha-shulkhan ba-pinah, ‘im nof la-’emek.
“Yes, I’d just like to ask for the table in the corner, with a view of the valley.”

-אוקיי, הוספתי הערה.
Okay, hosafti he’arah.
“Okay, I’ve added a note.”

-אחלה. תודה, עזרת לי מאוד.
Akhlah. Todah, azart li me’od.
“Great. Thanks, you’ve been very helpful.”

-אין על מה. תודה ונכחה לכם בשבת ב-11:30.
Ein ‘al mah. Todah ve-nekhakeh lakhem be-Shabbat be-akhat-esreh-va-khetzi.
“No problem. Thanks, and we’ll be looking forward to seeing you on Saturday at 11:30.”

-להתראות.
Lehitra’ot.
“Goodbye.”

-ביי.
Bay.
“Bye.”

10. Phone a friend: You can call on HebrewPod101 to help you learn all the Hebrew you’ll ever need.

We hope you’ve enjoyed today’s lesson on how to have a Hebrew phone conversation. Obviously, the more you improve your Hebrew, the more comfortable you’ll be both speaking by phone and understanding the person on the other end of the line. That said, it’s always great to practice specific situations with the right vocabulary, particularly ones you tend to get stressed over.

HebrewPod101 is here to offer you a wealth of resources to prepare you for speaking and understanding Hebrew in any situation you may face, whether it’s related to work, school, travel, family, friends, or even romance. Check out our site, and you’ll find an endless variety of lessons hand-crafted to equip you with all the language you’ll need to speak with fluency and confidence. 

As always, we’re happy to hear from you if you feel we’ve missed anything or if you’d like us to clarify something we covered.

Until next time, shalom!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Hebrew

The Top 220 Hebrew Words for Beginners

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Compared to languages like English and French, Hebrew has relatively fewer words. According to the Hebrew Language Academy, Hebrew has an estimated 75,000-85,000 lexemes, or abstract lexical units roughly corresponding to the entries you’d expect to find in a dictionary. 

But where does one start? 

Fear not! Today, HebrewPod101 is going to introduce you to the top 220 basic Hebrew words for beginners. We’ve included everything from pronouns to conjunctions and categorized our lists to cover various everyday topics. By the time you reach the end, you’ll be well-equipped to manage yourself in any situation!

To make it easier for you to learn these Hebrew words for beginners, we suggest that you don’t attempt to learn all of them in one go. Rather, pick a category or two, and start practicing them. If you need tips on some good and creative ways to practice your Hebrew, check out this article and this one for some ideas.

Before we plunge right in, don’t forget that no matter how you choose to practice the Hebrew vocabulary you pick up, the key is exposure and repetition. The more you read, hear, speak, and write a word, the easier it will be for you to retain it and to recall it on demand in a real-life situation. Make sure you review the new words you learn! 

Now, without further ado, let’s have a look at the top Hebrew beginner words.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Hebrew Table of Contents
  1. Pronouns
  2. Numbers
  3. Nouns
  4. Verbs
  5. Adjectives
  6. Words for Describing the Weather
  7. Conjunctions
  8. Bonus: Words That Only Exist in the Hebrew Language
  9. Let HebrewPod101 Help You with the Basics

1. Pronouns

Arrow Made of People Figurines

A solid place to start (if admittedly not the most glamorous) is with the pronouns. These are words that we use to substitute for a noun, like when we replace “the boy” with “he.” Pronouns should be part of any beginner’s toolkit, as they enable you to refer to all sorts of people, places, and things, even if you don’t know or remember the precise word. After all, sometimes the only words you need are “this” and “that”!

Note that in Hebrew, nouns, pronouns, verb conjugations, and adjectives are both gendered and numbered. So try to keep your male and female pronouns—and any other words you use to go with them—in the correct gender and count!

For more information on Hebrew pronouns, have a look at this lesson.

A. Personal Pronouns

Well-dressed People

Personal pronouns refer to people, specifically, so this is a great place to start. Let’s have a look.

1. אני
ani
“I”

2. אתה
atah
“you” (m.)

3. את
at
“you” (f.)

4. הוא
hu
“he”

5. היא
hi
“she”

6. אנחנו
anakhnu
“we”

7. אתם
atem
“you” (m. pl.)

8. אתן
aten
“you” (f. pl.)

9. הם
hem
“they” (m.)

10. הן
hen
“they” (f.)

B. Demonstrative Pronouns

Student Pointing to Post-its on Blackboard

We use demonstrative pronouns to “point” to things or to distinguish which noun, in particular, we’re referencing. Here are the top demonstrative pronouns in Hebrew:

11. זה
zeh
“this” (m.)

12. זאת
zot
“this” (f.)

13. זו
zo/zu
“this” (f.)

14. אלה
eleh
“those”

15. אלו
elu
“those”

C. Interrogative Pronouns

Blocks with Question Marks

Interrogative pronouns are the ones we use for questions. Here are the most common ones in Hebrew:

16. מה
mah
“what”

17. מי
mi
“who”

18. איפה
eyfoh
“where”

19. איך
eykh
“how”

20. מתי
matay
“when”

21. למה
lamah
“why”

22. למי
le-mi
“for whom”

23. לאן
le’an
“to where”

2. Numbers

Young Girl Counting

Next up, we have a critical category for any new language learner: numbers. In Hebrew specifically, this is a bit of a tricky topic, as there are both masculine and feminine number forms—and the first three numbers in each category look deceptively like the opposite gender! 

But don’t get worked up just yet. 

Even if you just start out by acquiring the masculine form of the numbers 1-10, you’ll definitely be able to get around; people will understand you even if you mistakenly use masculine numbers for feminine nouns. In fact, many native Hebrew speakers make this very mistake themselves!

24. אחת
akhat
“one”

25. שתיים
shtayim
“two”

26. שלוש
shalosh
“three”

27. ארבע
arba’
“four”

28. חמש
khamesh
“five”

29. שש
shesh
“six”

30.שבע
sheva’
“seven”

31. שמונה
shmoneh
“eight”

32. תשע
tesha’
“nine”

33. עשר
‘eser
“ten”

3. Nouns

Apple and Orange

Most of us remember our middle school teacher telling us at some point that nouns refer to “people, places, things, and ideas.” That covers a whole lot of ground, but you won’t get very far in Hebrew (or any language for that matter) without some basic nouns under your belt. Here are some of the most common nouns used in the Hebrew language:

A. Time

Egg Timer

Let’s first look at nouns related both to telling time and to identifying the different times of day. Here we go!

34. שעה
sha’ah
“hour”

35. דקה
dakah
“minute”

36. שנייה
shniyah
“second”

37. רגע
rega’
“moment”

38. בוקר
boker
“morning”

39. צהריים
tzohorayim
“noon”

40. אחר הצהריים
akhar ha-tzohorayim
“afternoon”

41. ערב
‘erev
“evening”

42. לילה
laylah
“night”

43. חצות
khatzot
“midnight”

44. זריחה
z’rikhah
“sunrise”

45. שקיעה
sh’ki’ah
“sunset”

B. Family

Family

Now let’s have a look at another essential noun category for beginner Hebrew, namely nouns that we use to refer to family members.

46. אבא
abba
“father”

47. אמא
imma
“mother”

48. סבא
saba
“grandfather”

49. סבתא
savta
“grandmother”

50. אח
akh
“brother”

51. אחות
akhot
“sister”

52. בן
ben
“son”

53. בת
bat
“daughter”

54. נכד
nekhed
“grandson”

55. נכדה
nekhdah
“granddaughter”

56. דוד
dod
“uncle”

57. דודה
dodah
“aunt”

58. בן דוד
ben dod
“cousin” (m.)

59. בת דודה
bat dodah
“cousin” (f.)

60. אחיין
akhyan
“nephew”

61. אחיינית
akhyanit
“niece”

62. אבא חורג
abba khoreg
abba khoreg

63. אמא חורגת
imma khoreget
“stepmother”

64. אח חורג
akh khoreg
“stepbrother”

65. אחות חורגת
akhot khoreget
“stepsister”

C. Jobs and Professions

Kids Dressed Up as Professionals

Note that both the masculine and the feminine forms, in that order, are shown here. These are typically the same word with slight morphological changes to indicate gender, though there are cases where the word changes completely depending on whether we’re talking about a male or female professional. For example, think of the English word “seamstress,” which is the female counterpart of the male word “tailor.” 

Also note that while English has shifted away from gendered professional titles (think “wait staff” instead of “waiter”/”waitress”), the grammatically gendered nature of the Hebrew language is such that professions remain gendered in almost all cases.

66. חקלאי/ת
khaklay/khakla’it
“farmer”

67. מהנדס/ת
mehandes/mehandeset
“engineer”

68. עורך דין/עורכת דין
orekh din/orekhet din
“lawyer”

69. רופא/ה
rofeh/rof’ah
“doctor”

70. סופר/ת
sofer/soferet
“author”/”writer”

71. חייל/ת
khayal/khayeletkhayal/khayelet
“soldier”

72. מוֹרֶה/מוֹרָה
moreh/morah
“teacher”

73. מוכר/מוכרת
mokher/mokheret
“salesperson”

74. פקיד/פקידה
pakid/p’kidah
“clerk”/”public servant”

75. צייר/ת
tzayar/tzayeret
“painter”

76. שופט/ת
shofet/shofetet
“judge”

77. כבאי/ית
kabay/kaba’it
“firefighter”

78. חשמלאי/ת
khashmala’i/khashmala’it
“electrician”

79. שרברב/ית
sharvrav/shravrabit
“plumber”

80. מלצר/ית
meltzar/meltzarit
“waiter”/”waitress”

81. חייט/תופרת
khayat/toferet
“tailor”/”seamstress”

82. אח/אחות
akh/akhot
“nurse”

83. אוֹפֶה/אוֹפָה
ofeh/ofah
“baker”

84. שף/שפית
shef/shefit
“chef”

85. מזכיר/ה
mazkir/mazkirah
“secretary”

86. ספר/ית
sappar/sapparit
“barber”/”hairdresser”

87. רופא/ת שניים
rofeh/rof’at shinayim
“dentist”

88. בנאי/ת
banay/bana’it
“builder”/”construction worker”

89. פועל/ת
po’el/po’elet
“laborer”/”factory worker”

90. טייס/ת
tayyas/tayyeset
“pilot”

D. Parts of the Body

Hand Touching Neck

Another key group of nouns in Hebrew for beginners are the parts of the body. One thing to note here is that, like Arabic, Hebrew has not only the singular and plural forms, but also a pair form. This form is made by using the suffix -יים (-ayim) and it’s used, among other things, for most body parts that come in pairs (like eyes, ears, and knees).

91. ראש
rosh
“head”

92. גוף
guf
“body”

93. שיער
se’ar
“hair”

94. עיניים
eynayim
“eyes”

95. אוזניים
oznayim
“ears”

96. פה
peh
“mouth”

97. שניים
shinayim
“teeth”

98. שפתיים
sefatayim
“lips”

99. אף
af
“nose”

100. צוואר
tzavar
“neck”

101. כתפיים
k’tefayim
“shoulders”

102. חזה
khazeh
“chest”

103. גב
gav
“back”

104. בטן
beten
“stomach”

105. מתניים
motnayim
“hips”

106. ידיים
yadayim
“hands”/”arms”

107. מרפקים
marpekim
“elbows”

108. פרק יד
perek yad
“wrist”

109. אצבעות
etzba’ot
“fingers”

110. רגליים
raglayim
“legs”/”feet”

111. ירכיים
yerekhayim
“thighs”

112. ברכיים
birkayim
“knees”

113. שוקיים
shokayim
“calves”

114. קרסוליים
karsolayim
“ankles”

115. אצבעות הרגליים
etzba’ot ha-raglayiml
“toes”

116. עקבים
‘akevim’
“heels”

4. Verbs

Track Runners in Race

Now that we’ve seen a fair share of nouns, let’s check out some of the more common verbs you’ll want to know as a beginner Hebrew learner. Remember that verbs are words that describe actions and states of being. We’ve handpicked the most useful verbs for daily activities and situations so that you can easily get by as you start conversing in Hebrew.

As verb conjugation is one of the more challenging aspects of learning Hebrew, one simple trick you can try is to use a simple verb, such as הולך/הולכת (holekh/holeket, “go”) or רוֹצֶה/רוֹצָה (rotzeh/rotzah, “want”), followed by a verb in its infinitive (unconjugated) form to make simple sentences. Note the examples provided with the first two verbs.

For more information on Hebrew verbs, see this lesson.

117. להתעורר
lehit’orer
“to wake up”

  • אני לא רוצה להתעורר.
    Ani lo rotzeh lehit’orer.
    “I don’t want to wake up.”

118. לקום
lakum
“to get up”

  • אני הולכת לקום עכשיו.
    Ani holekhet lakum ‘akhshav.
    “I’m going to get up now.”

119. לאכול
le’ekhol
“to eat”

120. לשתות
lishtot
“to drink”

121. לישון
lishon
“to sleep”

122. ללמוד
lilmod
“to learn” / “to study”

123. לנסוע
linso’a
“to travel”

124. ללכת
lalekhet
“to go” / “to walk”

125. לרוץ
larutz
“to run”

126. לדבר
ledaber
“to talk” / “to speak”

127. לשאול
lishol
“to ask”

128. לענות
la’anot
“to answer”

129. לכתוב
likhtov
“to write”

130. לקרוא
likro
“to read”

131. לחייך
lekhayekh
“to smile”

132. לבכות
livkot
“to cry”

133. לצחוק
litzkhok
“to laugh”

134. לצעוק
litz’ok
“to yell”

135. להתלונן
lehitlonen
“to complain”

136. לשאת ולתת
laset ve-latet
“to negotiate”

137. לקנות
liknot
“to buy”

138. לשאול
lish’ol
“to borrow”

*Note that this is the same verb as “to ask,” which we saw above.

139. להשאיל
lehash’il
“to lend”

140. לקחת
lakakhat
“to take”

141. לתת
latet
“to give”

142. לעשות
la’asot
“to do”

143. לחפש
lekhapes
“to look for” / “to seek”

144. למצוא
limtzo
“to find”

145. לשחות
liskhot
“to swim”

146. לשחק
lesakhek
“to play”

147. לשקר
leshaker
“to lie”

148. לעזור
la’azor
“to help”

149. להפריע
lehafri’a
“to bother” / “to disturb”

150. לבקר
levaker
“to visit”

5. Adjectives

Man Describing Something

While it’s true that you can make simple sentences with just nouns/pronouns and verbs, adjectives are what allow us to start making more complex, specific, and interesting statements and questions. Let’s have a look at some of the most commonly used Hebrew adjectives for beginners.

A. Adjectives for Describing Objects

Sporting Goods

First off, let’s look at some common adjectives we might use to describe everyday objects. Of course, many of these adjectives can be used to describe people as well, just make sure to use the right gender form!

151. גדול/ה
gadol/g’dolah
“big”

152. קטן/קטנה
katan/k’tanah
“small”

153. ארוך/ארוכה
arokh/arukah
“long”

154. קצר/ה
katzar/k’tzarah
“short”

155. כבד/ה
kaved/k’vedah
“heavy”

156. קל/ה
kal/kalah
“light”

157. חדש/ה
khadash/khadashah
“new”

158. ישן/ישנה
yashan/yeshanah
“old”

159. מעניין/מעניינת
me’anyen/me’anyenet
“interesting”

160. משעמם/משעממת
mesha’amem/mesha’amemet
“boring”

161. מיוחד/ת
meyukhad/meyukhedet
“special”

162. רגיל/ה
ragil/regilah
“regular” / “ordinary”

163. יקר/ה
yakar/yekarah
“expensive” / “valuable”

164. זול/ה
zol/zolah
“cheap”

165. נדיר/ה
nadir/nedirah
“rare”

166. נפוץ/נפוצה
nafotz/nefotzah
“common”

B. Adjectives for Describing People

People Standing in Line

Now, let’s see some adjectives that are generally used for describing people and their characteristics. As before, some of these can certainly be used for non-people nouns, too. Just pay attention to the proper gender for whom or what you’re describing.

167. יָפֶה/יָפָה
yafeh/yafah
“handsome” / “pretty”

168. גבוה/גבוהה
gavoha/g’vohah
“tall”

169. נמוך/נמוכה
namukh/nemukhah
“short”

170. רָזֶה/רָזָה
razeh/razah
“thin”

171. שמן/שמנה
shamen/sh’menah
“fat”

172. חכם/חכמה
khakham/khakhamah
“smart”

173. טיפש/טיפשה
tipesh/tipshah
“stupid”

174. אינטליגנטי/ת
inteligenti/inteligentit
“intelligent”

175. חרוץ/חרוצה
kharutz/kharutzah
“hard-working” / “industrious”

176. עצלן/עצלנית
‘atzlan/’atzlanit
“lazy”

177. רציני/ת
retzini/retzinit
“serious”

178. נינוח/ה
nino’akh/ninokhah
“easy-going” / “laid back”

179. משכיל/ה
maskil/maskilah
“educated” / “sage”

180. בור/ה
bur/burah
“ignorant”

C. Adjectives for Describing Emotions

Woman with Flowers Over Eyes

Now, let’s see some adjectives that can help us describe emotions. Some people find it helpful to study these with emoticons or emojis to help them remember which word goes with which emotion.

181. שמח/ה
same’akh/smekhah
“happy”

182. עצוב/ה
‘atzuv/’atzuvah
“sad”

183. מפחד/ת
mefakhed/mefakhedet
“scared”

184. כועס/כועסת
ko’es/ko’eset
“angry” / “upset”

185. בודד/בודדה
boded/bodedah
“lonely”

186. קנאי/ת
kanay/kana’it
“jealous”

187. אופטימי/ת
optimi/optimit
“optimistic” / “hopeful”

188. פסימי/ת
pesimi/pesimit
“pessimistic”

189. מופתע/ת
mufta’/mufta’at
“surprised”

190. בטוח/ה
batu’akh/betukhah
“confident” / “certain”

191. בספק
be-safek
“doubtful”

6. Words for Describing the Weather

Weather Forecast

What is it that we all know strangers tend to talk about? The weather, of course! 

Whether it’s to be able to chit-chat with the person sitting next to you on the bus or to understand tomorrow’s forecast, knowing basic weather words is a key part of beginner Hebrew. Here are the top words for describing the weather. Note that these are all nouns.

192. שמש
shemesh
“sun”

193. ענן
‘anan
“cloud”

194. גשם
geshem
“rain”

195. שלג
sheleg
“snow”

196. ברד
barad
“hail”

197. ברק
barak
“lightning”

198. רעם
ra’am
“thunder”

199. כפור
kfor
“frost”

200. קרח
kerakh
“ice”

201. טל
tal
“dew”

202. רוח
ru’akh
“wind”

203. סערה
se’arah
“storm”

7. Conjunctions

Boy Dressed Up as College Graduate

While these words might be considered slightly more advanced, conjunctions are sort of like the glue that holds together the rest of the words in a sentence. Considering their importance, then, it’s a good idea to pick up the more commonly used ones. Let’s check them out.

204. ו-
ve-/u-
“and”

205. או
o
“or”

206. אבל
aval
“but”

207. אך
akh
“however”

208. לכן
lakhen
“therefore”

209. אם
im
“if”

210. גם
gam
“also”

211. כי
ki
“because”

212. אכן
akhen
“indeed”

213. אלא
ela
“rather”

8. Bonus: Words That Only Exist in the Hebrew Language

Speech Bubble Containing Israeli Flag

Finally, here are some words that have no parallel in English. This is a mixed bag, but these are all words that have a special flavor that really only works in Hebrew. We’ve provided sample sentences to help illustrate the meaning and usage of each word.

214. את
et
(no English equivalent – linker to direct objects)

*This word is one that will only start to make sense once you’ve seen it being used a number of times. Essentially, it’s a linker between a verb and a direct object, with no semantic meaning of its own.

  • אני אוהב את השיר הזה.
    Ani ohev et ha-shir ha-zeh.
    “I like this song.”

215. דווקא
davka
(no English equivalent – similar to “on purpose” or “of all things”)

  • את רוצה לאכול דווקא את מה שאכלת בדיוק לפני שעה?
    At rotzah le’ekhol davka et mah she-akhalt lifney sha’ah?
    “You want to eat exactly what you ate an hour ago, of all things?”

216. סתם
stam
“for no reason”

  • לפעמים היא שרה סתם כי בא לה.
    Lifamim hi sharah stam ki ba lah.
    “Sometimes she sings for no reason just because she feels like it.”

217. תכלס
takhles
“honestly”

  • תכלס, אני לא ממש אוהב כדורסל.
    Takhles, ani lo mamash ohev kadursal.
    Honestly, I don’t really care for basketball.”

218. דוגרי
dugri
“straight” / “to the point”

  • אני אגיד לך דוגרי. אתה לא הטיפוס שלי.
    Ani agid lekha dugri. Atah lo ha-tipus sheli.
    “I’ll give it to you straight. You’re not my type.”

219. חוצפה
khutzpah
“gall” / “nerve”

  • איזה חוצפה! אכלת את ארוחת הצהריים שלי אפילו בלי לשאול!
    Eyzeh khutzpah! Akhalt et arukhat ha-tzohorayim sheli afilu bli lish’ol!
    “What nerve! You ate my lunch without so much as asking!”

220. להתחדש
lehitkhadesh
(no English equivalent – literally “to renew oneself”)

  • התחדשי על השמלה. ממש יפה לך!
    Hitkhadshi ‘al ha-simlah. Mamash yafah lakh!
    “Enjoy that new dress. It’s really nice on you.”

9. Let HebrewPod101 Help You with the Basics

As experts in language education, we know how overwhelming it can be to begin studying a new language. That is all the more true in the case of a language so different from English as Hebrew, with an entirely new alphabet and sound system, not to mention the grammar. But not to worry! That’s exactly why we at HebrewPod101.com are here to offer you all of the resources you need to successfully progress from beginner all the way to advanced and beyond.

We believe that the key to successful language learning is to take things a bit at a time. Few of us (if any) could possibly learn more than 200 words without a significant amount of repetition. So take it slow and stay focused. Apart from today’s lesson on the top 220 beginner words in Hebrew, we have specific lessons on a broad array of topics. Using our resources, you can build up your vocabulary, work on grammar points, or even practice your pronunciation—all at your own pace and on your own schedule.

    → Not sure where to start? Why not explore our series of Hebrew beginner lessons? This course is specially designed to help you level up in no time!

Anything unclear about today’s words? Any words we skipped that you’d like to know? Questions about pronunciation or grammar? Whatever it may be, we’re always happy to hear from our students, so don’t hesitate to get in touch with any questions or doubts you may have.

Until next time, shalom!

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The Top 10 Hebrew Filler Words

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As with any other language, spoken Hebrew can be quite different from written Hebrew. While there’s a wealth of grammar and other rules that dictate what is “correct” Hebrew, what Israelis actually speak on the street follows rules of its own, separate from what the Academy of the Hebrew Language may deem kosher. Aside from slang, elisions, and pronunciation variants, Hebrew filler words are just a part of natural speech.

Filler words are typically short words or sounds that we employ while thinking of what to say, or perhaps even when we get nervous. Most people use filler words to some extent, although your middle school grammar teacher may have criticized their use. While it’s true that using such words too often can definitely make you sound unsure of yourself or—let’s face it—just get annoying, peppering your speech with some authentic filler words in Hebrew will make you sound that much more natural. Plus, sometimes, you really just need a moment to gather your thoughts or to remember that new vocabulary word that’s stuck on the tip of your tongue.

In today’s lesson, we’re going to look at the top fillers in the Hebrew language. We’ll discuss why we use filler words, when to use each one, and how to pronounce them idiomatically. Just keep in mind that you really don’t want to overuse them, as they will degrade the quality of your speech. Even if you hear some Israelis using a whole lot of filler words (and you will hear this!), we still advise using them sparingly. In other words, like, you know: don’t overdo it!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Hebrew Table of Contents
  1. What are filler words and why do we use them?
  2. Filler words with no real semantic meaning
  3. Filler words to show you’re still thinking
  4. Filler words that signal to the other person
  5. Let HebrewPod101 Fill in the Blanks for You

1. What are filler words and why do we use them?

As we mentioned previously, filler words are words, phrases, or even just utterances that we use to stitch our speech together. Most of the time, we employ fillers to buy time when we’re still thinking of what to say. Take the English fillers “uh” and “well” for example; you might hear people use them when they’re still processing their thoughts or thinking about what someone has just said. Obviously, there are other functions we may associate with filler words, as well. Here are the top five reasons we tend to use filler words in Hebrew:

  1. We’re still thinking of what to say

    As mentioned, fillers are most often used to buy time so you can think of what to say next. This is particularly relevant to language learners, as using a filler word can indicate to the other party that you’re still actively engaged in the conversation, even if you need a moment to formulate a response in Hebrew.
  1. We’re nervous

    In a similar vein, being nervous can often cause us to get confused or to have memory lapses. Clearly, as a Hebrew learner, it’s perfectly normal for you to feel some amount of nervousness in situations where you feel on the spot (such as asking someone out or talking to a person of authority like a police officer). While a bit of hemming and hawing is understandable, try not to allow your nerves to unleash an unchecked flow of fillers!
  1. It’s a tic or bad habit

    This is one you really want to be careful of. Many native speakers of a language exhibit the bad habit of overusing filler words (just imagine a teenager who says “like” after every other word). It’s pretty intuitive that watering down your speech with a bunch of meaningless words or utterances is not going to do any favors for your fluency or eloquence. Language learners in particular can easily fall into this trap. You may begin using fillers casually whenever you’re planning what to say next, but if you’re not careful, this may soon turn into a habit. This is why it’s important to be conscious of your use of fillers and not to allow them to get out of hand.
  1. We want to show we’re following along with someone as they speak
Attentive Listeners
    Sometimes, we use fillers just to show the person we’re talking with that we’re actively engaged in the conversation. You can think of affirmatives (e.g. “uh-huh” or “sure”) or expressions of surprise (“wow” or “no way”) that we commonly offer so the other person knows we’re following along with interest. Again, this is perfectly fine in moderation, but be careful not to exaggerate it.
  1. We can’t think of the right word

    As a non-native speaker, you may find yourself fumbling to retrieve a word you know you’ve learned but can’t recall, or maybe even a word you haven’t yet encountered in your studies. Whatever the case may be, filler words are a great way to indicate that we need a moment or two to access our memory banks, or perhaps to ask for help with expressing our thoughts.

2. Filler words with no real semantic meaning

To start, let’s have a look at some Hebrew filler words that don’t really convey any meaning. These are equivalent to English fillers such as “um,” “like,” “you know,” and “I mean,” to name just a few. Essentially, we’re talking about words, phrases, or utterances whose removal from a sentence would not have any impact on its semantic meaning. Conversely, then, their addition to these sentences is not a matter of adding or modifying information, but rather one of performing the functions we mentioned above.

Man Holding Rope in Shape of Question Mark
  1. אממ…
    Em
    “Um”

This one is just the Israeli parallel to English’s “um,” which is to say it’s as filler as it gets.

  • – אתה זוכר איפה חנינו את האוטו?
    – Atah zokher eyfoh khaninu et ha-oto?
    – “Do you remember where we parked the car?”
  • אממ…, אני חושב שאנחנו ליד בית הספר.
    Emm…, ani khoshev she-anakhnu leyad beyt ha-sefer.
    – “Um, I think we’re next to the school.”
  • – כמה אתה שוקל?
    – Kamah atah shokel?
    – “How much do you weigh?”
  • – תן לי להיזכר. אממ… 80 קילו אם אני לא טועה.
    – Ten li lehizakher. Emm… shmonim kilo im ani lo to’eh.
    – “Let me think. Um… 80 kilos, if I’m not mistaken.”

  1. כאילו
    Ke’ilu
    “Like”
  • – דנה, נרדמת לי, כאילו, או מה?
    – Danah, nirdamt li, ke’ilu, o mah?
    – “Dana, did you, like, fall asleep on me?”
  • – לא, סליחה. פשוט לא ישנתי טוב.
    – Lo, selikhah. Pashut lo yashanti tov.
    – “No, sorry. I just didn’t sleep well.”
  • – נשמע ממש מעניין, כאילו, הרעיון שלך.
    – Nishma’ mamash me’anyen, ke’ilu, ha-ra’ayon shelakh.
    – “Your idea sounds, like, really interesting.”
  • – תודה. כאילו, זה לא ממש מקורי, אבל תודה.
    – Todah.  Ke’ilu, zeh lo mamash mekori, aval todah.
    – “Thanks. Like, it’s not very original, but thanks.”

  1. יעני
    Ya’ani
    “I mean”

*Note that this is actually an Arabic word that is used as a loanword in Hebrew (as are many other Arabic words, particularly slang).

  • – נסענו העירה, יעני לתל אביב.
    Nasa’anu ha-ira, ya’ani le-Tel Aviv.
    – “We drove downtown. I mean, to Tel Aviv.”
  • – וואו, לך לישון!
    – Wau, lekh lishon.
    – “Wow, go to sleep.”
  • – אתם חברים יעני?
    – Atem khaverim ya’ani,?
    – “Are you, I mean, an item?”
  • – האמת שכבר יצאנו פעמיים!
    – Ha-emet she-kvar yatzanu pa’amayim!
    – “The truth is we’ve already gone out twice!”

Conversation among friends
  1. נכון
    Nakhon
    “Right”
  • – שלום, האם תוכל לעזור לי? אין לי חשמל בכל הבית.
    – Shalom, ha’im tukhal la’azor li? Eyn li khashmal be-khol ha-bayit.
    – “Hi, could you help me? I have no electricity anywhere in the house.”
  • – דבר ראשון, אתה רוצה לבדוק את לוח החשמל, נכון?
    – Davar rishon, atah rotzeh livdok et lu’akh ha-khasmal, nakhon?
    – “First thing, you’d wanna check the panel, right?”
  • – ראית את אורן בזמן האחרון?
    – Ra’it et Oren ba-zman ha-akharon?
    – “Have you seen Oren lately?”
  • – אתה עובד איתו, נכון? אז תגיד לי אתה.
    – Atah oved ito, nakhon? Az tagid li atah.
    – “You work with him, right? So why don’t you tell me?”

  1. אז
    Az
    “So”
  • אז איך נשמע לך הרעיון של שותפות מלאה?
    Az eykh nishma’ lakh ha-ra’ayon shel shutafut mele’ah?
    – “So what do you think about a full partnership?”
  • – תני לי לחשוב על זה כמה ימים.
    – Teni li lakha’shov ‘al zeh kamah yamim.
    – “Let me think about it for a couple of days.”
  • – אתה בא למסיבה של רון?
    – Atah ba la-mesibah shel Ron?
    – “Are you coming to Ron’s party?”
  • – הוא לא ממש הזמין אותי, אז
    – Hu lo mamash hizmin oti, az
    – “He didn’t really invite me, so…”

3. Filler words to show you’re still thinking

As we said previously, filler words are a great way to buy some time when you’re in the process of thinking. This can be because you’re still processing what the other person said or because you’re mining your memory for that perfect word or phrase you learned just last week. Either way, the following fillers are particularly useful in situations where you just need a moment to gather your thoughts before continuing with the conversation.

Woman with question marks above head
  1. לדעתי
    Le-da’ati
    “I think” / “To my mind”
  • – נראה לך שנוכל לנסוע בקרוב?
    – Nireh lekha she-nukhal linso’a be-karov?
    – “Do you think we can head out soon?”
  • – ייקח לי עוד כשעתיים לסיים כאן, לדעתי.
    – Yikakh li ‘od ke-sha’atayim lesayem kan, le-da’ati.
    – “It’ll take me another couple of hours or so to finish up here, I think.”
  • – כמה הוצאנו על המסיבה?
    – Kamah hotzenu ‘al ha-mesibah?
    – “How much did we spend on the party?”
  • לדעתי, זה יצא סביב ה-600 שקל.
    Le-da’ati, ze yatzah seviv ha-shesh-me’ot shekel.
    – “I think it came to around 600 shekels.”

  1. כנראה
    Kanireh
    “Apparently” / “It would seem”
  • – למה אתה לבוש ככה?
    – Lamah atah lavush kakhah?
    – “Why are you dressed like that?”
  • כנראה שנדבקתי במשהו.
    Kanireh she-nidbakti be-mashehu.
    – “It would seem that I’m coming down with something.”
  • – בא לך לצאת לבירה הערב?
    Ba lakh latzet le-birah ha-’erev?
    – “Do you feel like going out for a beer tonight?”
  • – בא לי אבל אני כנראה שאצטרך לעבוד עד מאוחר.
    – Ba li aval kanireh she-etztarekh la’avod ‘ad me’ukhar.
    – “I’d like to, but apparently I’m going to have to work late.”

4. Filler words that signal to the other person

Two Men Conversing

Lastly, let’s have a look at some filler words that represent a sort of “nod” at the person you’re speaking to, by way of talking to and not at someone. These can be thought of as a way of holding the person’s attention, or making sure (s)he is following along with you. You can also throw in one of these Hebrew filler words if you feel like you may not have explained yourself clearly, in order to make sure the other person did, in fact, understand you. 

  1. אתה יודע/את יודעת&
    Atah yode’a / At yoda’at
    “You know”
  • – החיים במדינה שלי לא קלים, ממש כמו בישראל, את יודעת.
    – Ha-khayim ba-medinah sheli lo kalim, mamash kemo be-Yisrael, at yoda’at.
    – “Life in my country is hard, just like in Israel, you know.”
  • – כן, ברור לי.
    – Ken, barur li.
    – “Yes, of course I know that.”
  • – נו, אז מה את אומרת? יוצאים לפאב עוד מעט?
    – Nu, az mah at omeret? Yotzim la-pab ‘od me’at?
    – “So, what do you say? Should we head to the bar in a bit?”
  • – אני ממש צריכה לשבת וללמוד לקראת המבחן הגדול, אתה יודע.
    – Ani mamash tzrikhah lashevet ve-lilmod likrat ha-mivkhan ha-gadol, atah yode’a.
    – “I really need to sit and study for the big exam coming up, you know.”

  1. אתה מבין/את מבינה
    Atah mevin / At mevinah
    “You know”
  • – מה קרה? למה את כל כך עצובה היום?
    – Mah karah? Lamah at kol kakh ‘atzuvah ha-yom?
    – “What’s up? Why are you so sad today?”
  • – חבר שלי התקבל ללימודים בחו”ל, את מבינה?
    – Khaver sheli hitkabel le-limudim be-khu”l, at mevinah?
    – “My boyfriend got accepted to study abroad, you know?”
  • – איך אתה מצליח לעבוד כל כך הרבה שעות ועוד לחייך?
    – Eykh atah matzli’akh la’avod kol kakh harbeh sha’ot ve-’od lekhayekh?
    – “How do you manage to work so many hours and still keep a smile on your face?”
  • – הכל בראש, אתה מבין? צריך לשמור על מורל גבוה!
    – Ha-kol ba-rosh, atah mevin? Tzarikh lishmor ‘al moral gavoha.
    – “It’s all in your head, you know? One has to keep morale high!”

  1. אתה יודע/ את יודעת?
    Hevanta? / Hevant?
    “Do you know what I mean?” (Lit.: “Did you understand?”)
  • – שירלי, למה את לא עונה לי לטלפון?
    – Shirli, lamah at lo ‘onah li la-telefon?
    – “Shirli, why aren’t you taking my calls?”
  • – סליחה, אני פשוט עסוקה מאוד בימים אלה, את יודעת?
    – Selikha, ani pashut ‘asukah me’od be-yamim eleh, at yoda’at?
    – “Sorry, I’m just very busy these days, you know?”
  • – איזה כיף שאתם יוצאים לחופשה סוף סוף!
    – Eyzeh keif she-atem yotzim le-khufshah sof sof!
    – “It’s great that you’re finally going on vacation!”
  • – טוב, אנו חוסכים כבר שנתיים. זה לא בדיוק זול, אתה יודע?
    – Tov, anu khoskhim kvar shnatayim. Zeh lo bediyuk zol, ata yode’a?
    – “Well, we’ve been saving up for two years. It’s not exactly cheap, you know?

5. Let HebrewPod101 Fill in the Blanks for You

We hope you’ve enjoyed today’s lesson on Hebrew filler words. Obviously, as you’ve seen, a well-placed filler in Hebrew can help you get a moment to think or remember a word. Plus, when used in moderation, they add an extra measure of authenticity to your speech. After all, sounding too perfect isn’t idiomatic either, and Israelis themselves use these fillers plenty.

That being said, we here at HebrewPod101 are always here to ensure that you have all the vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation, and even cultural knowledge that you need to hold your own in Hebrew. Check out our thousands of other lessons covering endless topics and language points. And if we’re missing anything you’d like more information on, please let us know. We’re always happy to fill in the blanks!

Until next time, shalom!

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Negation in Hebrew: How to Say No Like a Pro

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Expressing negation is a crucial skill in any language. Not only do we need to know the right word(s) to say in order to make logical negative sentences, but we also need to understand which forms are appropriate in which cases. Unlike some cultures, which seemingly struggle with saying no, Israelis are (as in all other spheres of communication) quite direct when expressing things like disinterest, the lack of something, or the inability to do something. While Hebrew negation may sound abrasive to the untrained ear, the fact is that there’s an art to it all, and a nuanced one at that. Today’s lesson will prime you to say no like a pro as we look at all facets of Hebrew negation.

The first thing to understand is that Israelis tend to be more frank than what Westerners may be accustomed to, with fewer niceties of conversation, less small talk, and less beating around the bush. When a situation arises in which someone wishes to express a negative, they’ll typically do so in the most direct and efficient way possible. The other person will generally not take any offense at such directness, as this is simply the nature of Hebrew.

That being said, you also don’t want to find yourself inadvertently exaggerating your directness. That’s why we’re going to look at different ways to express negation in Hebrew—including more formal ones—along with contextual examples to demonstrate their correct usage. Finally, we’ll look at some of the top words and phrases that you can use to say no in Hebrew.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Hebrew Table of Contents
  1. Negative Statements
  2. Negative Imperatives
  3. Answering Questions with Negation
  4. Other Words and Phrases for Negation
  5. Don’t Be Afraid to Learn Hebrew – HebrewPod101 Has Always Got Your Back!

1. Negative Statements

The most basic thing we need to know is how to formulate simple negative statements. The great thing is that, by and large, you’ll only need to know one word: לא (lo). This word, meaning “no,” is your go-to for all things negative, though it can also take the function of other negative English words and phrases, such as “don’t” or “won’t.” 

Let’s begin by having a look at how לא works in context by comparing positive and negative statements, with לא being the only distinction between them. Note that the word לא comes after the subject and before the word or phrase it negates.

A- Use of the word לא (lo) – “no” /Japan road sign 302.svg

No Sign with Guy Holding Up Hand
  1. אני סטודנטית.
    Ani studentit.
    “I’m a student.”
  1. אני לא סטודנטית.
    Ani lo studentit.
    “I’m not a student.”
  1. אני רעב.
    Ani ra’ev.
    “I’m hungry.”
  1. אני לא רעב.
    Ani lo ra’ev.
    “I’m not hungry.”
  1. אני רוצה לראות סרט.
    Ani rotzeh lir’ot seret.
    “I want to see a movie.”
  1. אני לא רוצה לראות סרט.
    Ani lo rotzeh lir’ot seret.
    “I don’t want to see a movie.”
  1. ההורים שלי גרים בישראל.
    Ha-horim sheli garim be-Yisrael.
    “My parents live in Israel.”
  1. ההורים שלי לא גרים בישראל.
    Ha-horim sheli lo garim be-Yisrael.
    “My parents don’t live in Israel.”

B- Use of the word אין (eyn) – “no” / “there is no” / “there are no”

Woman Holding Hands Palms Up

The word אין (eyn) can also be used for simple negation. It means the opposite of יש (yesh), meaning “there is” or “there are,” which can also take the place of the English verb “have,” for which there’s no Hebrew equivalent. אין (eyn) is chiefly used to describe the lack of something. Here are some examples:

  1. יש מבחן מחר.
    Yesh mivkhan makhar.
    “There’s a test tomorrow.”

    אין מבחן מחר.
    Eyn mivkhan makhar.
    There’s no test tomorrow.”

  1. יש לי אחים.
    Yesh li akhim.
    “I have siblings.”

    אין לי אחים.
    Eyn li akhim.
    “I don’t have siblings.”

  1. יש לי זמן לדבר מחר.
    Yesh li zman ledaber makhar.
    “I have time to speak tomorrow.”
  1. אין לי זמן לדבר מחר.
    Eyn li zman ledaber makhar.
    “I do not have time to speak tomorrow.”

אין can also be used as an alternative to לא in negating nouns/nominal phrases or verbs/verbal phrases. However, unlike לא, which is used without any morphological changes (i.e. changes to the form of the word itself), אין must be conjugated to fit the subject’s gender and number, as demonstrated in the examples below.

Additionally, אין is generally considered a bit more formal. For example, you may encounter this word on signs warning of things not to be done in a given place, or in instruction manuals advising users on improper use of a product. 

  1. אבא שלי דתי.
    Abba sheli dati.
    “My father is religious.”
  1. אבא שלי אינו דתי.
    Abba sheli eyno dati.
    “My father is not religious.”
  1. אמא שלי אוהבת אוכל חריף.
    Imma sheli ohevet okhel kharif.
    “My mother likes spicy food.”
  1. אמא שלי אינה אוהבת אוכל חריף.
    Imma sheli eynah ohevet okhel kharif.
    “My mother does not like spicy food.”
  1. אני רעב.
    Ani ra’ev.
    “I am hungry.”
  1. אינני רעב.
    Eyneni ra’ev.
    “I am not hungry.”
  1. אתה מורשה להשתמש בציוד משרדי לשימוש עצמי.
    Atah mursheh lehishtamesh be-tziyud misradi le-shimush atzmi.
    “You are authorized to use office supplies for personal use.”
  1. אינך מורשה להשתמש בציוד משרדי לשימוש עצמי.
    Eynkha mursheh lehishtamesh be-tziyud misradi le-shimush atzmi.
    “You are not authorized to use office supplies for personal use.”
  1. את מוסמכת להפעיל את כלי הרכב הזה.
    At musmekhet lehaf’il et kli ha-rekhev ha-zeh.
    “You are authorized to operate this vehicle.”
  1. אינך מוסמכת להפעיל את כלי הרכב הזה.
    Eynekh musmekhet lehaf’il et kli ha-rekhev ha-zeh.
    “You are not authorized to operate this vehicle.”
  1. הרופא נמצא כעת.
    Ha-rofe nimtza ka-’et.
    “The doctor is currently in.”
  1. הרופא אינו/איננו נמצא כעת.
    Ha-rofe eyno/eynenu nimtza ka-’et.
    “The doctor is not currently in.”
  1. אחותי מעוניינת בפוליטיקה.
    Akhoti me’unyenet ba-politikah.
    “My sister is interested in politics.”
  1. אחותי אינה/איננה מעוניינת בפוליטיקה.
    Akhoti eynah/eynenah me’unyenet ba-politikah.
    “My sister is not interested in politics.”
  1. אתם רצויים כאן.
    Atem retzuyim kan.
    “You are wanted here.”
  1. אינכם רצויים כאן.
    Eynkhem retzuyim kan.
    “You are not wanted here.”
  1. אתן נמצאות ברשימת המוזמנים.
    Aten nimtza’ot bi-r’shimat ha-muzmanim.
    “You are on the guest list.”
  1. אינכן נמצאות ברשימת המוזמנים.
    Eynkhen nimtza’ot bi-r’shimat ha-muzmanim.
    “You are not on the guest list.”
  1. קרובי המשפחה רשאים להיכנס לחדר בלי ציוד מגן אישי.
    Krovey ha-mishpakhah rasha’im lehikanes la-kheder bli tziyud magel ishi.
    “Relatives are allowed to enter the room without PPE.”
  1. קרובי המשפחה אינם רשאים להיכנס לחדר בלי ציוד מגן אישי.
    Krovey ha-mishpakhah eynam rasha’im lehikanes la-kheder bli tziyud magel ishi.
    “Relatives are not allowed to enter the room without PPE.”
  1. העובדות יודעות איך התחילה השריפה.
    Ha-ovdot yod’ot eykh hitkhilah ha-s’reyfah.
    “The employees know how the fire started.”
  1. העובדות אינן יודעות איך התחילה השריפה.
    Ha-ovdot eynan yod’ot eykh hitkhilah ha-s’reyfah.
    “The employees do not know how the fire started.”

2. Negative Imperatives

No Written on Hand

Sometimes we want to tell people what they should or must do, and sometimes we want to tell them what not to do. This is when negative imperatives come in handy. In Hebrew, negative imperatives are formed with just one word: אל (al) – “do not.” Just be aware that, as in English, speaking to someone in the imperative voice should be reserved for situations of urgency, as it’s a highly direct form of speech, particularly when you’re essentially ordering someone not to do something. 

Here are some examples of negative imperatives in Hebrew:

  1. אל תרוץ בתוך הבית.
    Al tarutz betokh ha-bayit.
    Don’t run inside the house.”
  1. אל תאכלו באוטובוס.
    Al tokhlu ba-otobus.
    Don’t eat on the bus.”
  1. אל תסעי לשם לבד.
    Al tis’i le-sham levad.
    Don’t go there alone.”
  1. אל תפחדו, זה לא נחש ארסי.
    Al tifkhadu, zeh lo nakhash arsi.
    Don’t worry, that’s not a poisonous snake.”
  1. אל תסתכל בקנקן אלא במה שיש בו.
    Al tistakel ba-kankan ela mah she-yesh bo.
    Don’t look at the jug, but at its contents.” (This is a saying equivalent to English’s, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”)

3. Answering Questions with Negation

Woman Making Iffy Face

Now let’s have a look at how we can answer questions with negative answers. As in most languages, there are a number of ways to do this in Hebrew, including with לא and אין. For the purposes of this lesson, we’ll look at the most common forms to answer questions with negation, though there are obviously others. We’ll illustrate these through a few short exchanges demonstrating negative answers to various questions.

  1. -יש לך 20 שקל במקרה?
    -Yesh lekha esrim shekel be-mikreh?
    -“Do you have 20 shekels by any chance?”

    אין עליי כלום.
    -Eyn alay klum.
    -“I don’t have a thing on me.”

*Note that Hebrew uses double negatives, so the above sentence literally translates to: “I don’t have nothing on me.”

  1. -את רוצה לנסוע לצפון בחגים?
    -At rotzah linso’a la-Tzafon ba-khagim?
    -“Do you want to travel to the North over the holidays?”

    לא, אני לא רוצה.
    Lo, ani lo rotzah.
    -“No, I don’t.”

  1. -אתה מעוניין להצטרף אלינו למסיבה?
    -Atah me’unyan lehitztaref eleynu la-mesibah?
    -“Are you interested in joining us at the party?”

    -אני מעדיף שלא.
    -Ani ma’adif she-lo.
    -“I’d prefer not to.”

  1. -את חושבת שתסיימי את הפרוייקט השבוע?
    -At khoshevet she-tisaymi et ha-proyect ha-shavu’a?
    -“Do you think you’ll finish the project this week?”

    לא נראה לי.
    Lo nir’ah li.
    -“I don’t think so.”

  1. -לדעתך ירד גשם היום?
    -Le-da’atekh yered geshem ha-yom?
    -“Do you think it will rain today?”

    לא חושבת.
    Lo khoshevet.
    -“I don’t think so.”


4. Other Words and Phrases for Negation

Man with Tape Over Mouth

Finally, let’s take a look at some of the more common words and phrases used in the context of negation. There are obviously many more ways of making a sentence or statement negative in Hebrew than what’s provided here, but this list covers the top 10 most commonly used negative expressions.

*Note the use of double negatives in many of the examples below. Though we saw this previously, it bears clarifying that Hebrew uses double negatives, with negative verbs or verbal phrases taking negative objects. This can be confusing for English speakers, as double negatives are not used in correct English, so make sure to pay attention!

  1. כמעט ולא
    Kim’at ve-lo
    “Hardly”

    אני כמעט ולא רואה טלוויזיה.
    Ani kim’at ve-lo ro’eh televiziyah.
    “I hardly watch TV.”

  1. בכלל לא
    Bikhlal lo
    “Not at all”

    הוא בכלל לא רואה משחקי כדורגל.
    Hu bikhlal lo ro’eh miskhakey kaduregel.
    “He doesn’t watch soccer games at all.”

  1. לעולם לא
    Le-’olam lo
    “Never”

    היא לעולם לא יצאה מישראל.
    Hi le-’olam lo yatzah me-Yisrael.
    “She has never been outside of Israel.”

  1. בחיים לא
    Ba-khayim lo
    “Never ever”

    -היית אוכל כריש?
    -Hayita okhel karish?
    -“Would you eat shark?”

    בחיים לא!
    Ba-khayim lo!
    -“Never ever!”

  1. גם לא
    Gam lo
    “Neither” / “Either” / “Nor” / “Or”

    מה שעשיתם זה לא הוגן וגם לא יפה.
    Mah she-’asitem zeh lo hogen ve-gam lo yafeh.
    “What you did was not fair, nor was it nice.”

  1. אין מצב
    Eyn matzav
    “No way”

    אין מצב שאתם עושים מסיבה בלי להזמין אותי.
    Eyn matzav she-atem ‘osim mesibah b’li lehazmin oti.
    “There’s no way you guys are having a party without inviting me.”

  1. אף אחד
    Af ekhad
    “No one”

    אף אחד לא שאל אותך!
    Af ekhad lo sha’al otkha!
    No one asked you!”

  1. אף פעם
    Af pa’am
    “Never” / “Not once”

    אף פעם לא מאוחר להתפייס.
    Af pa’am lo me’ukhar lehitpayes.
    “It’s never too late to make up.”

  1. כלום
    Klum
    “Nothing” / “Anything”

    מחר אנחנו לא עושים כלום.
    Makhar anakhnu lo ‘osim klum.
    “We’re not doing anything tomorrow.”

  1. שום דבר
    Shum davar
    “Nothing at all” / “Not a thing”

    שום דבר לא יכול לעצור בן אדם בעל רצון.
    Shum davar lo yakhol la’atzor ben adam ba’al ratzon.
    “There’s not a thing that can stop a motivated person.”


5. Don’t Be Afraid to Learn Hebrew – HebrewPod101 Has Always Got Your Back!

We hope you found today’s lesson useful. Even though our focus was on negation, we truly hope you had a positive learning experience. Our goal at HebrewPod101 is always to make sure you receive quality lessons that are informative, interesting, and clear. If there’s anything else you’d like to know about Hebrew negation, please get in touch with us, and one of our expert Hebrew teachers will be happy to respond!

Remember that with broad topics like negation, it’s best not to bite off more than you can chew and digest at any one time. For that reason, we recommend learning and practicing a few small language chunks at a time, rather than attempting to assimilate an entire lesson in one sitting. Practice these words and phrases a little bit at a time, and you’ll see that they’ll start to sink in before you know it!

Until next time, shalom!

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Learn About Hebrew Verb Tenses without the Tension

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Grammar seems to be one of the least inviting parts of language learning, but it’s like stretching after exercise or checking the air in your tires before a trip: it’s something essential you have to give your attention to if you want to ensure success. 

As you learn about Hebrew verb tenses in particular, you’ll find that Hebrew grammar is actually easier than many other languages. In fact, though other linguistic means can be used to express things like conditionals, the Hebrew language has only three real tenses: simple past, simple present, and simple future. That’s right! No progressives, no perfect tenses, and no compound tenses to trip you up.

Hebrew is known for its economy, in the sense that it gets a lot of mileage out of limited language elements. The case of tenses is no exception. Although there are only three main tenses, Hebrew makes use of extra descriptors (such as time cues) for nuance; these help distinguish between a past event that just happened versus one that occurred some time ago, for instance.

In the following article, we’ll be looking at how to form the three Hebrew tenses, along with helpful examples that illustrate their use. Note that many Hebrew learners like to start learning the tenses by first mastering one tense (typically the present), and only then moving on to the rest. 

Let’s jump right in!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Hebrew Table of Contents
  1. The Hebrew Present Tense
  2. The Hebrew Past Tense
  3. The Hebrew Future Tense
  4. The Top 5 Things You Need to Know About Using the Tenses in Hebrew
  5. Verb Conjugation Overview
  6. Let HebrewPod101 Make Your Future Plans for Hebrew Happen in the Present!

1. The Hebrew Present Tense

Stopwatch

In modern Hebrew, the present tense is used for anything that is happening right now, as well as for generally repeated actions or states such as habits. Unlike in English, there are no progressive or perfect present forms in Hebrew; these are expressed using context and time cues. It’s also important to note that there’s no form of the verb “to be,” or להיות (lehiyot), in present tense; it’s simply omitted. 

Without further ado, let’s have a look at which words and phrases are commonly used with the present tense, along with examples of how it’s used.

    1. עכשיו
    ‘Akhshav
    “Now”

    אני אוכל עכשיו.
    Ani okhel ‘akhshav.
    “I’m eating now.”

    2. בדיוק
    Bediyuk
    “Right now”

    *Note that this same word can be used to say “exactly.”

    אני בדיוק עולה לרכבת.
    Ani bediyuk ‘oleh la-rakevet.
    “I’m getting on the train right now.”

    3. כרגע
    Karega’
    “At present”

    אני לא עובד כרגע.
    Ani lo ‘oved karega’.
    “I’m not working at present.”

    4. תמיד
    Tamid
    “Always”

    אני תמיד קורא לפני השינה.
    Ani tamid kore lifney ha-sheynah.
    “I always read before bed.”

    5. כל יום/שבוע/חודש/שנה
    Kol yom/shavu’a/khodesh/shanah
    “Every day/week/month/year”

    אני עושה כושר כל יום.
    Ani ‘oseh kosher kol yom.
    “I do exercise every day.”

    *Note the difference between כל יום (kol yom), meaning “every day,” and כל היום (kol ha-yom), meaning “all day.”

2. The Hebrew Past Tense

Old Photos

In Hebrew, the past tense is used to express any completed action or state. There are no progressive or perfect past forms in Hebrew, so these are expressed using context and time cues. Below is a list of the most common words and phrases used with the past tense, along with sample sentences.

    1. אתמול
    Etmol
    “Yesterday”

    אתמול אכלתי במסעדה.
    Etmol akhalti be-mis’adah.
    Yesterday, I ate at a restaurant.”

    2. בדיוק
    Bediyuk
    “Right now”

    בדיוק עלית לרכבת.
    Bediyuk ‘aliti la-rakevet.
    “I just got on the train.”

    3. לא מזמן
    Lo mizman
    “Not long ago”

    לא מזמן ראיתי אותך בתל אביב.
    Lo mizman ra’iti otakh be-Tel Aviv.
    Not long ago, I saw you in Tel Aviv.”

    4.כבר
    Kvar
    “Already”

    כבר קראתי את העיתון היום.
    Kvar karati et ha-‘iton hayom.
    “I already read the newspaper today.”

    5.לפני שעה/יומיים/חודש/שנה
    Lifney sha’ah/yomayim/khodesh/shanah
    “An hour/two days/a month/a year ago”

    טסתי להודו לפני שנה.
    Tasti le-Hodu lifney shanah.
    “I flew to India a year ago.”

3. The Hebrew Future Tense

Road to the Future

In Hebrew, the future tense is used for any planned or projected action or state. There are no progressive or perfect future forms in Hebrew, so these are expressed using context and time cues. Note that many times, in Hebrew, we simply use one of these time or context cues with the present tense rather than the future, especially to express plans. This is akin to the use of the present progressive in English, which is used to express plans. Below is a list of the words and phrases most commonly used with the Hebrew future tense, as well as examples illustrating their use.

    1. מחר
    Makhar
    “Tomorrow”

    מחר אסע לצפון.
    Makhar esa’ la-Tzafon.
    Tomorrow, I’m going to the North.”

    *Note that, as mentioned, this same plan could be expressed using the present tense with the same time cue, as follows:

    מחר אני נוסע לצפון.
    Makhar ani nose’a la-Tzafon.
    Tomorrow, I’m going to the North.”

    2. בקרוב
    Bekarov
    “Soon”

    אנחנו נתחתן בקרוב.
    Anakhnu nitkhaten bekarov.
    “We’ll be getting married soon.”

    3. עוד מעט
    ‘Od me’at
    “In a while”

    עוד מעט נגיע הביתה.
    ‘Od me’at nagi’a habaytah.
    “We’ll get home in a while.”

    4. כבר
    Kvar
    “Already” / “In no time”

    כבר תהיה ילד גדול.
    Kvar tihiyeh yeled gadol.
    “You’ll be a big boy in no time.”

    5. בעוד שעה/יומיים/חודש/שנה
    Be-‘od sha’ah/yomayim/khodesh/shanah
    “In an hour/two days/a month/a year”

    בעוד חודש אהיה בחופש.
    Be-‘od khodesh eheyeh be-khofesh.
    In a month, I’ll be on vacation.”

4. The Top 5 Things You Need to Know About Using the Tenses in Hebrew

Infinity Clock

Now that you’ve seen some of the most common words and phrases to use with the three main tenses in Hebrew, let’s sum up by looking at the top five things you need to know in order to use the Hebrew verb tenses correctly.

1. The verb “to be” is omitted in the present tense.

As mentioned earlier, there’s no form of the Hebrew verb להיות (lehiyot), or “to be,” in the present tense. But don’t worry! All you need to do is omit it (marked in the example with [-]). Here’s an example to illustrate:

    המרק הזה חם מאוד.
    Ha-marak ha-zeh [-] kham me’od.
    “This soup is very hot.”

2. There are no progressive, perfect, or compound tenses in Hebrew.

Unlike English, which has a whopping 12 tenses, Hebrew relies almost entirely on just three. For instance, the Hebrew equivalent of the English sentence “I am going to go” would be either “I go” or “I will go.” The same is true for the past tense: “I have been wondering” in Hebrew would just be “I wondered” or “I wonder.” 

Remember that to clarify and express finer nuances of time, we rely on time and context cues like the words and phrases outlined above.

3. The present tense can be used to express future plans or projections, approximating English’s -ing structure.

Just as English will often make use of the present tense to express future plans or expectations, Hebrew also makes frequent use of the present tense to express the future. For example, if you plan to rest tomorrow, you can say it in either future or present tense:

    מחר אנוח.
    Makhar anu’akh.
    “Tomorrow, I’m going to rest.”
    (FUTURE TENSE)

OR

    מחר אני נח.
    Makhar ani nakh.
    “Tomorrow, I’m going to rest.” (Literally: “Tomorrow, I rest.”)
    (PRESENT TENSE TO EXPRESS FUTURE)

4. The verb ללכת (lalekhet), or “to go/walk,” can be used to talk about future plans in the same way that English uses “going to.”

Hebrew often uses the verb ללכת (lalekhet), which literally means “to go” or “to walk,” as an auxiliary that has the same meaning it does in English when used to talk about future plans. Here’s an example:

    אני הולך לראות סרט עם חברים הערב.
    Ani holekh lirot seret ‘im khaverim ha-erev.
    “I’m going to see a movie with friends this evening.”

5. The subjunctive mood can be expressed by combining a past tense form of the verb להיות (lehiyot), or “to be,” with another verb in the present tense.

The subjunctive mood is used when talking about hypothetical situations or things we would like to happen. Where English uses modal verbs like “could” and “would” or verbs of desire like “wish” and “like,” Hebrew combines the past and present tenses, with the verb להיות (lehiyot), or “to be,” in the past and another main verb in the present. Here are a couple of examples:

    הייתי רוצה אוטו יותר חדש.
    Hayiti rotzeh oto yoter khadash.
    “I wish I had a newer car.” (Literally: “I would like a newer car.”)

    היית אוכלת בשר כריש?
    Hayit okhelet basar karish?
    “Would you eat shark meat?”

5. Verb Conjugation Overview

Verb Conjugation List

Finally, although we’ve covered Hebrew verb forms and conjugations in depth in other lessons, such as this one, let’s just take a quick look at the following verb conjugation table as a reminder of how this looks across the tenses. For the purposes of this lesson, let’s use the verb לאכול (le’ekhol), or “to eat.”

PresentPastFuture
1st per. sing. m./f.אני (ani)אוכל (okhel)אכלתי (akhalti)אוכל (okhal)
2nd per. sing. m.אתה (atah)אוכל (okhel)אכלת (akhalta)תאכל (tokhal)
2nd per. sing. f.את (at)אוכלת (okhelet)אכלת (akhalt)תאכלי (tokhli)
3rd per. sing. m.הוא (hu)אוכל (okhel)אכל (akhal)יאכל (yokhal)
3rd per. sing. f.היא (hi)אוכלת (okhelet)אכלה (akhlah)תאכל (tokhal)
1st per. pl.אנחנו (anakhnu)אוכלים (okhlim)אכלנו (akhalnu)נאכל (nokhal)
2nd per. pl. m.אתם (atem)אוכלים (okhlim)אכלתם (akhaltem)תאכלו (tokhlu)
2nd per. pl. f.אתן (aten)אוכלות (okhlot)אכלתן (akhalten)תאכלו (tokhlu) /
תאכלנה (tokhalnah)
3rd per. pl. m.הם (hem)אוכלים (okhlim)אכלו (akhlu)יאכלו (yokhlu)
3rd per. pl. f.הן (hen)אוכלות (okhlot)אכלו (akhlu)יאכלו (yokhlu) /
תאכלנה (tokhalnah)

6. Let HebrewPod101 Make Your Future Plans for Hebrew Happen in the Present!

We hope you enjoyed today’s lesson on the Hebrew verb tenses, and that you agree that they’re not too tricky in the scheme of things. Our goal at HebrewPod101 is to make sure your learning experience is a smooth process, and that you have fun along the way. Was there anything we missed in our discussion of the tenses? Any tense structures you’ve seen that we didn’t cover? Feel free to get in touch and let us know.

If you enjoyed today’s lesson, we invite you to peruse the wealth of resources we have available on our website for your benefit. Whether you need to work on some sticky grammar points or are just looking to build up your Hebrew vocabulary, we’ve got it covered in our text and audiovisual lessons. 

We hope to see you next time, and until then, shalom!

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How Long Does it Take to Learn Hebrew?

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How long does it take to learn Hebrew? This is an altogether common question for people interested in picking up this ancient, vibrant, and wholly unique language. 

No two students are alike, so the answer to this question will vary based on who you are and how you go about studying. For example, if you already know how to read the Hebrew alphabet, you’ll surely progress much faster than someone starting from scratch. Or if you’re able to do immersion learning in Israel, you’ll likely progress more quickly than someone learning in a place where they can’t engage with Hebrew day and night.

Of course, motivation is one of the most central factors in determining how fast you progress with a language. For instance, if you’re learning Hebrew in order to land a new business contract—or better yet, to impress a girl or guy you met at a party—you’ll likely find yourself progressing at a faster clip than someone who, say, has to learn Hebrew because their parents think it’s important for them to be able to read prayers or the Torah.

In any case, today we’ll be looking at:

  • Factors that can influence your learning speed
  • The essential skills you’ll need to reach the beginner, intermediate, and advanced Hebrew proficiency levels
  • Some helpful tips on how to learn Hebrew fast

We’ll also talk about how long you can expect it to take you to reach each of these levels, though the numbers can vary quite a bit from one language learner to the next. Without further ado, let’s have a look at how long it takes to learn Hebrew.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Hebrew Table of Contents
  1. Factors That Can Influence Your Learning Speed
  2. Beginner Level
  3. Intermediate Level
  4. Advanced Level
  5. Top 10 Tips to Help You Learn Hebrew Faster
  6. Let HebrewPod101 Get You on the Fast Track to Hebrew Learning

Factors That Can Influence Your Learning Speed

Car Going Over Speed Bump

Before we look at each level and what it entails, let’s look at some more general factors that are likely to influence your learning speed.

Motivation

As mentioned previously, your motivation level is going to be reflected in the speed at which you progress with your Hebrew studies. Generally speaking, an intrinsically motivated student, meaning someone who is learning Hebrew out of his or her own personal choice, is going to find it much easier to advance. This is because there’s a lot of satisfaction to be found in achieving something you set your mind to. Plus, you’re typically going to be able to use Hebrew for a specific goal, which can be very gratifying, indeed.

Chances are, if you’re reading this lesson, you already have some reason for wanting to improve your Hebrew. But even if that isn’t the case, try to set your eyes on smaller goals that you can keep at the front of your mind as you study. This will help keep you motivated as you progress through your stated goals and feel that sense of accomplishment. For example, you may want to be able to sing along with a Hebrew song you like or to read Hebrew without nikkud. Keep your goals realistic for your current level, rather than overshooting it!

Your language(s) going in

Language Books

One thing that’s going to make a huge difference in terms of how fast you progress with Hebrew is the language(s) you speak going in. Because Hebrew is a member of the Semitic language family, you’ll be more comfortable with the way Hebrew works if you speak any Arabic or Farsi, for example. This is because these languages share common traits (such as being read and written right to left) and comparable grammar logic. 

English speakers are unlikely to find any foothold here, as they would with Germanic or Romance languages. Hebrew is altogether distinct from these language families and really bears no resemblance to English (other than all the loanwords it has from English, Latin, and other international languages). You may well recognize individual words, but don’t expect this to get you too far. At the end of the day, you just have to accept that the Hebrew language has its own separate character, rules, and approach to expressing the world.

Your linguistic abilities and experience in general

Another key factor is any prior experience you have with languages. For example, if you grew up bilingual or polyglot, you’ll likely have a leg up on someone who is monolingual—even if none of the languages you know are Semitic! This is partly due to something known as “tolerance for ambiguity,” a term that refers to a language learner’s willingness to accept and assimilate language features that differ from what s/he knows from her/his native tongue(s).

Moreover, if you’ve ever studied a language before, whether Hebrew or any other language foreign to you, your prior experience is likely to have some bearing on how you approach your Hebrew learning. For example, if you had good language teachers in school who inculcated healthy learning habits and gave you an overall positive language learning experience, you’re likely to have an easier time taking up a new language. On the other hand, if you had lousy teachers, you may be somewhat traumatized from these experiences and need to develop new habits and a new attitude toward language learning.

How and where you’re studying

Woman Studying from Books

As we said in the introduction, immersion studying is always going to be ideal, but it may not be a possibility for everyone who wants to learn Hebrew. If you can find a way to spend time in Israel, you’ll be able to benefit from constant exposure to the Hebrew language through interactions with other people, listening to the news, watching TV, etc., all in Hebrew. However, if you can’t physically go to Israel, try your best to boost your exposure to Hebrew by taking advantage of the wealth of media available online. For example, you can check out Hebrew-language Netflix series, Hebrew songs on YouTube, and even Hebrew-language forums.

Apart from location, it will be beneficial to have some sort of structure to your learning. This will help to ensure that you progress in a linear fashion, building your knowledge successively and acquiring all the skills you need in one level before running ahead to a more advanced one. It will also prevent you from feeling like you’re drowning in an overwhelming sea of information, without knowing how to progress.

It’s always a good idea to vary your learning, as well. We recommend using a mix of serious and fun learning materials (for example, grammar lessons vs. lessons on slang), as well as giving all four language skills (reading, writing, speaking, and listening) equal attention. Of course, there are some situations where you may need to hone only one or two skills. For example, in an academic setting, you may only need to be able to read Hebrew (and not produce it). Or maybe you simply want to learn conversational Hebrew and have little interest in learning to read it. In such cases, you may want to focus only on the necessities.

Beginner Level

The beginner level is just what it sounds like. This level describes someone who is in the initial phases of acquiring the Hebrew language. 

The US Foreign Service Institute (FSI) groups world languages into four different categories, with Category I languages being the most similar to English and Category IV languages being the least similar. They have ranked Hebrew as a Category III language, meaning it has significant linguistic and/or cultural differences from English. Languages in this category are estimated to require 44 weeks (or 1100 hours) in order to reach “General Professional Proficiency” in speaking and reading. This would be equivalent to Intermediate Level on HebrewPod101.com.

Extrapolating based on this projection, the average time it takes to reach the beginner level might be something like 22 weeks (or 550 hours), if we assume that the beginner level is halfway to the intermediate level. 

At the beginner level, the assumption is that you’re building up a lot of passive knowledge, but obviously with the goal of being able to apply it and produce language (i.e. speak or write) more and more as you progress.

Wondering how to learn Hebrew from scratch? Here’s a list of skills and abilities you’ll want to master as a beginner:

The alphabet – אלפבית (alefbeyt)

Hebrew Book

As Hebrew does not use the Latin alphabet, you’ll need to learn to read the 22 characters of the Hebrew alphabet. To make things more complicated, Hebrew is an abjad, meaning that vowels are not letters but diacritical marks placed above, below, or within the letters, which are all consonants or vowel-bearing placeholders. To make it just a bit more complicated, these diacritical marks, called ניקוד (nikkud), are almost universally omitted from written and printed Hebrew and therefore need to be deduced from context. However, many learning materials include them for the benefit of the student reader. One last complication is that Hebrew uses one script for print and another for handwriting, so you’ll probably want to learn both of these.

Basic verbs

Verbs are action words, so you won’t see much action without them! The good news about Hebrew verbs is that there are only three main tenses—simple past, simple present, and simple future—and there’s no verb “to be” in present tense. The bad news is that there are a whopping seven conjugation patterns to learn.

Male and female forms

One of the aspects of Hebrew that tends to be particularly tricky for speakers of non-gendered languages, such as English, is the fact that Hebrew uses male and female forms for nouns, pronouns, adjectives, and verb conjugations.

Talking about yourself

Two women talking

At the beginner level, you’ll learn how to introduce yourself and how to say basic things about yourself, such as where you’re from and what you do.

Saying hello and goodbye

You won’t get very far without these essential skills.

Countries, nationalities, and languages of the world

The beginner level is a great place to learn these, starting with your own country of origin, nationality, and language(s). Once you have those down, you can progress to other countries, nationalities, and languages so that you can also talk about other people in this regard.

Likes and dislikes

Woman Making Face of Displeasure

As a beginner, you should learn to express basic likes and dislikes, as well as things like your hobbies and pastimes.

Food and drink

In Israel, we love food! So, no basic Hebrew-language education would be complete without learning how to discuss food. This includes verbs, nouns, and adjectives for eating, drinking, ordering at a restaurant, etc.

Work and school

You’ll also want to know how to talk about work and school, including the vocabulary for different professions and careers.

Numbers and time

Numbers on Check

Finally, numbers and the related topic of telling time are also essential for the beginner level. Note that Hebrew also has male and female forms for numbers, so you’ll want to master this, as well.

Intermediate Level

As you progress, you’ll move on to the intermediate level, which is where many students feel comfortable staying. At this level, which, as mentioned, might take around 44 weeks (1100 hours), you’ll already be getting much more comfortable holding a basic conversation and generally defending yourself in Hebrew.

Here’s a list of skills and abilities you’ll want to acquire at the intermediate level of Hebrew:

Dealing with travel situations

Because this is an essential skill set that draws on various abilities, you should get to a certain level of comfort when handling travel situations. This includes things like taking a taxi and buying bus tickets, as well as asking for and even giving directions.

Writing simple texts

Icon of Envelope

At this level, you should be able to produce simple texts, such as short text messages and emails or brief descriptions.

Describing things with some detail

Man Talking

At this point, you should also be acquiring sufficient vocabulary. This includes not only nouns and verbs, but also adjectives and adverbs which will permit you to describe experiences, plans, and opinions with some level of detail and precision.

Reading and understanding more complex texts

Books

You should be able to read and comprehend more complex texts such as news items or technical articles in fields you’re familiar with, such as those related to your profession. Much of this, of course, will have to do with vocabulary acquisition.

Have lengthier, more complex conversations

Again, as you progress in your ability to understand speech spoken at native speeds, and as you build up your own ability to speak with fluency, you should be able to engage in more interesting and drawn-out conversations.

Advanced Level

First of all, it should be noted that there really isn’t a limit to the advanced level. While there is a distinction in terms of skills and abilities when compared to the intermediate and beginner levels, you can take the advanced level just about as far as you wish—even to the point of achieving what’s known as near fluency. 

So, how long does it take to learn Hebrew fluently? A conservative estimate might be something like 2 years, though a really motivated and talented student might get there as soon as, say, 18 months.

Here’s a list of skills and abilities that pertain to the advanced level of Hebrew-language study:

Understanding longer and more demanding texts or conversations

As you grow your vocabulary and improve your grasp of things like grammar and syntax, you should be able to fend for yourself even when reading complex texts such as full-length books, opinion pieces, and even poems and song lyrics. You should also be able to engage in lengthy and complex conversations, such as discussing your opinions on politics or talking about technical matters.

Expressing ideas comfortably and in a fluid manner

Woman with Lots of Thought Bubbles

By now, you should feel comfortable expressing most of your thoughts and ideas with fluency, which in the literal sense means that your speech flows, without much stuttering, hesitation, or searching for words.

Effectively using language in social, academic, and professional situations

Your broad vocabulary, improved grammar, and stronger rhetorical abilities should enable you to feel comfortable using language in functional settings, such as at work or school, or in making and getting to know friends…or even that special someone.

Writing well-structured, detailed texts on complex topics

Woman Working on a Written Project

Assuming you’re focusing on writing and not just speaking, you should now be able to write more complex texts, such as essays and full-length letters or emails. You should have a solid grasp of different registers (e.g. formal vs. informal) and when to employ them.

Top 10 Tips to Help You Learn Hebrew Faster

Regardless of your current level or your language learning goals, there are several things you can do to make the most of your study time. Here are our top ten tips for how to learn Hebrew faster!

1. Read both with and without vowels to practice word recognition.

This is obviously going to be more important at the beginner level (and perhaps the intermediate level, to some extent), as the expectation is that by the time you reach the intermediate level, you’ll have become comfortable reading without vowels. That’s why it’s important to start practicing this ability as early as possible.

2. Keep track of vocabulary.

Record new words as you go, using a notebook or even your phone. Also, quiz yourself regularly to make sure you’re retaining this vocabulary.

3. Make sure to talk to native speakers, and ask them to correct you.

Two men in conversation

This is obviously much easier to do if you’re physically in Israel, but even if you’re not, you should do whatever it takes to find some native speakers in your town or online. This way, you can practice speaking Hebrew with someone who can offer you helpful feedback on your use of the language.

4. Watch and listen to plenty of media in Hebrew.

One of the best and most enjoyable ways to improve your Hebrew is to take advantage of the wealth of media available, particularly online, in the Hebrew language. Watch Hebrew TV shows and movies, and listen to Hebrew music as much as you can, especially with subtitles in Hebrew (see below).

5. Study with a partner.

Dancers

This may not be for everyone, but many people find that a study partner can be a great way to get mutual encouragement. It can also help with any anxiety when it comes to speaking. Obviously, it’s always best to try to find someone who is more or less at the same level of proficiency as you are.

6. Be willing to make mistakes.

Numerous studies have shown that the most successful language learners are those who go easy on themselves. Making mistakes is part and parcel of learning languages, so don’t just allow for this—expect it. Learn to laugh at yourself when you make a silly mistake, rather than getting caught up on it.

7. Don’t be embarrassed to ask questions.

Question Marks and Light Bulb

According to a Hebrew proverb, a bashful person makes for a poor student, and a strict person makes for a bad teacher. Part of any successful learning endeavor is a sense of comfort about asking questions whenever you’re in doubt. So when in doubt, ask someone for help!

8. Practice pronunciation in front of the mirror.

Woman in front of mirror

This will probably feel funny at first, but by actually watching what your mouth is doing when you speak, you have a better chance of honing in on the mechanics of producing the right sounds to approximate native-sounding Hebrew. In the same vein, pay attention to what you see Israelis’ mouths doing when they make any sounds you’re having difficulty with, and do your best to mimic them when you practice.

9. Do karaoke in Hebrew.

This one’s a no-brainer. Not only is it fun to let loose in front of the karaoke screen, but actually singing a song to beat is a great way of drumming language into your head—literally.

10. Use subtitles to help connect words to sound.

Popcorn and Remote

Subtitles are your friend. They’re a fantastic tool for working on anything, from expanding your vocabulary to recognizing words without vowels to picking up on grammar and syntax structures. 

As a beginner, you’ll likely need subtitles in your native language, but as you progress, you can use subtitles in a more challenging way. An intermediate student, for example, can pick up a lot of new words by watching TV or movies in his/her native tongue, with Hebrew subtitles to accompany it. As you advance, however, challenge yourself to watch Hebrew-language TV shows and movies with Hebrew subtitles. This can go a long way toward helping you connect the physical appearance of words with the sounds they make.

Let HebrewPod101 Get You on the Fast Track to Hebrew Learning

As you can see, there are many components to tackle in mastering the Hebrew language. We at HebrewPod101 are proud to offer you a broad array of learning materials to ensure that you learn comfortably and at as fast a pace as you desire.

Whether you prefer audio lessons or written ones like this one, our library of materials is diverse and designed with the optimal student experience in mind. In addition to our learning materials, we also offer numerous lessons addressing tips and techniques to make your learning more efficient and more enjoyable. 

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Until next lesson, shalom!

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Hebrew Proverbs: Right from the Source

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The word “proverb” is generally used to refer to a traditional saying that boils down a commonsense observation about life into a pithy adage, often through the use of a metaphor or some other rhetorical device. All languages, it would seem, express the wisdom of the ages using concise sayings that are easy to remember and recall to use for strategic effect. Indeed, the name of the game is knowing the right proverb for the right moment.

In the case of Hebrew proverbs, there’s an extensive arsenal to draw on. In fact, one of the oldest examples of a proverb folklore is the Book of Proverbs, which represents one of the Hebrew language’s greatest contributions to world literature. This book, of course, is part of a longstanding tradition of Hebrew proverbs, from Biblical times through the Rabbinic period, the Middle Ages, the Enlightenment, and right into modern times. As the People of the Book, Jews have long considered a well-turned phrase burnished at just the right moment to be a mark of erudition and eloquence.

Man Reading Bible

Of course, the vast majority of these old Hebrew proverbs are religious in nature and emanate from religious sources, namely the Hebrew Bible and the vast library of exegetical works (works that interpret the Bible). Because modern Israel is a largely secular country, some portion of these proverbs have certainly been relegated to the demographically more limited sphere of Israel’s religious communities. However, there’s still a large number of Hebrew proverbs used by the general public.

In any event, nothing will add stripes to your rank as a speaker of the language like a few pithy proverbs in Hebrew to employ at a choice moment in your conversation with a native speaker. To that end, our lesson today will cover the top thirty Hebrew proverbs along with context examples to help you know when best to use them.

Friends Having a Conversation
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  1. The Top 30 Hebrew Proverbs
  2. HebrewPod101 is Your Proverbial Go-To for All Things Hebrew

1. The Top 30 Hebrew Proverbs

אכול ושתו כי מחר נמות .1

TransliterationAkhol ve-shato ki makhar namut.
Literal translation“Eat and drink for tomorrow we shall die.”
SourceIsaiah 22:13
Parallel English proverbLife is short.
Usage in contextYour friend is trying to convince you to go skydiving with him, but you’re on the fence due to safety concerns. To try to win you over, he uses this phrase.

2. אם אין אני לי מי לי? וכשאני לעצמי, מה אני? ואם לא עכשיו, אימתי?

TransliterationIm eyn ani li mi li? U-kh’she-ani le-’atzmi, mah ani? Ve-im lo ‘akhshav, eymatay?
Literal translation“If I am not for myself, who will be? And when I am for myself, what am I? And if not now, then when?”
SourcePirkei Avot 1:14
Parallel English proverbThere’s no time like the present. [last part]
Usage in contextThis proverb is often quoted in part, depending on the application. For example:

It’s Friday, and you’re considering going to visit the Dead Sea for the first time, but you know you have a work assignment to hand in on Monday. To give you a bit of a push, your friend (who wants you to go with him) says, ואם לא עכשיו אימתי? (Ve-im lo ‘akhshav eymatay?)

Man Looking at Watch

3. מצא מין את מינו.

TransliterationMatza min et mino.
Literal translation“He found his own type.”
SourcePopular
Parallel English proverbLike two peas in a pod.
Usage in contextYour brother, who is a classical pianist, tells you about a date he went on with a classical violinist, to which you reply with this proverb.

4. ואהבת לרעך כמוך.

TransliterationVe-ahavta le-re’akha kamokha.
Literal translation“Love thy neighbor as thyself.”
Source Leviticus 19:18
Parallel English proverbSame as in Hebrew
Usage in contextA taxi driver wants to nudge in ahead of you at a merge onto the road. He rolls down his window, signaling for you to let him in, and quotes this proverb.

5. כל אהבה שהיא תלויה בדבר בטל דבר בטלה אהבה. ושאינה תלויה בדבר אינה בטלה לעולם.

TransliterationKol ahavah she-hi tluyah be-davar batel davar batlah ahavah. Ve-she-eynah tluyah be-davar eynah betelah le’olam.
Literal translation“Any love that depends upon a thing is annulled if that thing is annulled. Love that does not depend upon a thing will never be annulled.”
SourcePirkei Avot 5:19
Parallel English proverbTrue love lasts forever.
Usage in contextYou tell your Israeli girlfriend you need to go on a business trip abroad for a couple of months, and ask if she’ll wait for you to return. She replies with this proverb.

Hands Forming Heart Shape

6. כל הפוסל במומו פוסל.

TransliterationKol ha-posel be-mumo posel.
Literal translation“He who invalidates another invalidates himself.”
SourceTalmud Bavli: Kidushin 70:2
Parallel English proverbWhat you spot is what you’ve got.
Usage in contextYou criticize your neighbor for leaving trash outside his front door, and he points to your mailbox full of old mail, quoting this proverb.

Woman Looking in Rearview Mirror

7. עבר יומו בטל קרבנו.

Transliteration‘Avar yomo batel korbano.
Literal translation“Its day passed, its sacrifice was annulled.”
SourceTosefet Masekhet Berakhot 4
Parallel English proverbYou missed the boat.
Usage in contextYou forget your friend’s birthday, but offer to take him out to eat a month later. She replies with this proverb.

8. לכל זמן, ועת לכל חפץ תחת השמים.

TransliterationLa-kol zman, ve-’et le-khol khefetz takhat ha-shamayim.
Literal translation“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under Heaven.”
SourceEcclesiastes 3:1
Parallel English proverbEverything in its own time.
Usage in contextYou ask your father when he’s going to retire already, and he replies with this proverb.

9. תפשת מרובה לא תפשת.

TransliterationTafasta merubeh lo tafasta.
Literal translation“If you grab too much, you grab nothing.”
SourceTalmud Bavli: Sukkah 5:1
Parallel English proverbDon’t bite off more than you can chew.
Usage in contextYou tell your parents you’re going to double major in biochemistry and plasma physics, and your mother replies with this proverb.

10. חזית איש מהיר במלאכתו, לפני מלכים יתיצב.

TransliterationKhazita ish mahir bi-m’lakhto lifney melakhim yityatzev.
Literal translation“Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will stand before kings.”
SourceProverbs 22:29
Parallel English proverbPractice makes perfect.
Usage in contextYou observe a master falafel hawker flipping the balls high into the air so they land right in the pita, and you say this proverb to your friend in admiration.

11. לעולם יאכל אדם פחות מן הראוי לו לפי ממונו וילבש כראוי לו ויכבד אשתו ובניו יותר מן הראוי לו.

TransliterationLe-’olam yokhal adam pakhot min ha-ra’uy lo lefi mamono ve-yilbash ka-ra’uy lo vi-yekhabed ishto u-vanav yoter min ha-ra’uy lo.
Literal translation“A man should always eat less than is befitting him, dress as is befitting him, and provide for his wife and children more than is befitting him.”
SourceHilkhot De’ah 5:10
Parallel English proverbNone.
Usage in contextThis might be good advice to a friend trying to budget their expenses, as it relates to monetary priorities vis-à-vis one’s earnings.

12. על ראש הגנב בוער הכובע.

Transliteration‘Al rosh ha-ganav bo’er ha-kova’.
Literal translation“The hat burns atop the thief’s head.”
SourcePopular
Parallel English proverbLiar, liar, pants on fire.
Usage in contextYou see that the prime minister is nervous and fidgety in an interview about the criminal embezzlement leveled against him, and you say this proverb in response.

Burglar

13. אין דבר העומד בפני הרצון.

TransliterationEyn davar ha-’omed bifney ha-ratzon.
Literal translation“Nothing can stand before will.”
SourceThe Book of Zohar
Parallel English proverbWhere there’s a will, there’s a way.
Usage in contextYour sister asks you how you’re able to learn so much Hebrew on HebrewPod101.com, and you reply with this proverb.

14. קנה חכמה מה טוב מחרוץ וקנות בינה נבחר מכסף.

TransliterationKno khokhmah mah tov me-kharutz u-knot binah nivkhar mi-kasef.
Literal translation“How much better to get wisdom than gold, to choose understanding rather than silver.”
SourceProverbs 16:16
Parallel English proverbThe greatest wealth is wisdom.
Usage in contextYour grandfather asks you why you’re studying philosophy at university instead of business management, and you reply with this proverb.

15. איזה הוא חכם? הלומד מכל אדם.

TransliterationEyzeh hu khakham? Ha-lomed mi-kol adam.
Literal translation“Who is the wise man? He who learns from all men.”
SourcePirkei Avot 4:1
Parallel English proverbYou can learn something from everyone.
Usage in contextYou complain to your friends about your new roommate, who is very different from you, and they reply with this proverb.

16. כי ברב חכמה רב כעס, ויוסיף דעת יוסיף מכאוב.

TransliterationKi be-rov khokhmah rov ka’as, ve-yosif da’at yosif makh’ov.
Literal translation“For in much wisdom is much grief, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.”
SourceEcclesiastes 1:18
Parallel English proverbIgnorance is bliss.
Usage in contextYour boyfriend starts reading the nutritional values label on your favorite ice cream, and you tell him to stop, citing this proverb.

17. צרת רבים חצי נחמה.

TransliterationTzarat rabim khatzi nekhamah.
Literal translation“Suffering when shared is half a comfort.”
SourcePopular (based on Midrash Rabah)
Parallel English proverbMisery loves company.
Usage in contextA group of your employees all gather around to complain about the new strict boss, and you offer this proverb as a slight consolation.

18. איזהו גיבור? הכובש את יצרו.

TransliterationEyzehu gibor? Ha-kovesh et yitzro.
Literal translation“Who is the hero? He who conquers his urges.”
SourcePirkei Avot 4:1
Parallel English proverbDiscipline is wisdom and vice-versa.
Usage in contextYou are about to go for seconds at your favorite pizzeria, and your brother mentions this proverb while reminding you of your newly adopted diet.

Saluting Silhouette

19. אילני סרק קולם הולך.

TransliterationIylaney srak kolam holekh.
Literal translation“Barren trees make much noise.”
SourceGenesis Rabba 16:3
Parallel English proverbAn empty barrel makes the most noise.
Usage in contextYou call out one of your colleagues (a notorious know-it-all who always has something nasty to say about everyone), using this proverb to put her in her place.

20. אין חכם כבעל ניסיון.

TransliterationEyn khakham ke-va’al nisayon.
Literal translation“There is none wiser than the experienced.”
SourcePopular
Parallel English proverbExperience makes the best teacher.
Usage in contextWhen you ask your teacher why she’s given you so much homework, she replies with this proverb.

21. לא הבישן למד ולא הקפדן מלמד.

TransliterationLo ha-bayshan lamed ve-lo ha-kapdan melamed.
Literal translation“Neither does the timid learn nor the strict teach.”
SourcePirkei Avot 2:5
Parallel English proverbNone
Usage in contextThis is something a student might say in criticism of a teacher who does not invite questions, or that a teacher might say of a student who’s too afraid to ask them.

22. דברי חכמים בנחת נשמעים. 

TransliterationDivrey khakhamim be-nakhat nishma’im.
Literal translation“Wise words should be spoken pleasantly.”
SourceEcclesiastes 9:17
Parallel English proverbYou can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.
Usage in contextYou ask your friend how best to talk to your neighbors about their loud parties, and he cites this proverb.

23. סייג לחכמה שתיקה.

TransliterationSyag le-khokhmah shtikah.
Literal translation“Silence is a fence around wisdom.”
SourcePirkei Avot 3:13
Parallel English proverbBetter to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.
Usage in contextJust before you raise your hand at your first work meeting, your colleague whispers this proverb in your ear.

Man Zipping Lips

24. והוי זנב לאריות, ואל תהי ראש לשועלים.

TransliterationVe-hevi zanav la-arayot, ve-al tehi rosh la-shu’alim.
Literal translation“It is better to be the tail of the lion than the head of the fox.”
SourcePirkei Avot 4:15
Parallel English proverbBetter the head of a dog than the tail of a lion. (It’s humorous to note that the parallels are opposite!)
Usage in contextYou’re offered a position with a lower salary than your current job, but at a leading firm with lots of opportunity. Your friend offers you this proverb as advice.

25. בור ששתית ממנו אל תזרוק בו אבן.

TransliterationBor she-shatita mimenu al tizrok bo even.
Literal translation“Don’t throw stones into a well you’ve drunk from.”
SourceNumbers Rabba 22
Parallel English proverbDon’t bite the hand that feeds you.
Usage in contextYour father tells you not to criticize your mother’s coddling, mentioning this proverb.

26. אמור מעט ועשה הרבה.

TransliterationEmor me’at va-’aseh harbeh.
Literal translation“Speak little and do much.”
SourcePirkei Avot 1:14
Parallel English proverbActions speak louder than words.
Usage in contextAfter hearing about your plans to finally learn Hebrew, your brother offers you this proverb by way of advice.

Woman Rock Climbing

27. אל יתהלל חגר כמפתח.

TransliterationAl yithalel khoger ki-mefate’akh.
Literal translation“Let not him that girdeth on his armor boast himself as he that putteth it off.”
Source1 Kings 20:11
Parallel English proverbDon’t count your chickens before they hatch.
Usage in contextYou announce to your boyfriend that you’re sure you’ll get the scholarship you applied for, and he replies cautiously with this proverb.

28. חושך שבטו שונא בנו.

TransliterationKhosekh shivto sone beno.
Literal translation“He that spareth his rod hateth his son.”
SourceProverbs 13:24
Parallel English proverbSpare the rod and spoil the child.
Usage in contextYour friend admonishes you with this proverb for letting your grounded son go out to play with his friends after feeling bad for him.

29. שלח לחמך על פני המים כי ברב הימים תמצאנו.

TransliterationShlakh lakhmekha ‘al pney ha-mayim ki be-rov ha-yamim timtza’enu.
Literal translation“Cast thy bread upon the waters, for thou shalt find it after many days.”
SourceEcclesiastes 11:1
Parallel English proverbWhat goes around comes around.
Usage in contextYour grandmother encourages you to give to charity, mentioning this proverb.

30. טובים השנים מן האחד.

TransliterationTovim ha-shnayim min ha-ekhad.
Literal translation“Two are better than one.”
SourceEcclesiastes 4:9
Parallel English proverbTwo heads are better than one.
Usage in contextWhen you finally meet ‘the one’ and bring him home to meet the family, your father happily quotes this proverb.

Cutout of Two People

2. HebrewPod101 is Your Proverbial Go-To for All Things Hebrew

We hope you enjoyed today’s lesson on Hebrew proverbs, and that you found our selection of proverbs useful, interesting, and enlightening. Obviously, it would be a lot to expect anyone to memorize all thirty of these; we recommend working on just a couple at a time. You’ll be sure to get some pleasantly surprised reactions when you whip out a perfectly timed Hebrew proverb with your Israeli friends!

Was there anything related to Hebrew proverbs that we didn’t cover today, or anything we did cover that you’d like to know more about? We at HebrewPod101 are always happy to hear from you, so please feel free to get in touch with us. Until next time, Shalom!

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Jerusalem Travel Guide: The Top 10 Places in the Holy City

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Language, culture, and place are inseparably linked. Indeed, they have a dynamic relationship, with language shaping culture, and culture carving place into stone. In the case of a language as old as Hebrew, a nation as ancient as the Jewish people, and a city as old as Jerusalem, understanding the interplay between language, culture, and place is absolutely key to cracking Hebrew’s code.

In this Jerusalem travel guide, you’ll learn about the top attractions in Jerusalem for visitors as well as the culture and history of this magnificent city. It has been the center of Jewish culture for several millennia, and discovering everything it has to offer will give you a much deeper insight into how much the Hebrew language mirrors the story of the Jewish people.

Each has faced many perils as well as many triumphs, and each is woven from a dizzyingly diverse loom of threads that make up the tapestry of this city and its people. But perhaps most of all, Jerusalem is an incredible living analogy of the Jews’ ability to come out of each struggle, over more than two millennia, with a stronger and richer identity. Some of this story is set in stone (like at the Western Wall), and some of it is ever-changing (like the Jerusalem skyline of today).

Jerusalem Skyline

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Hebrew Table of Contents
  1. Before You Go – לפני הנסיעה (Lifney ha-Nesi’ah)
  2. Must-See Places for Shorter Trips (1-3 Days)
  3. Highly Recommended Places for a Longer Trip (4-7 Days or Longer)
  4. Bonus: Survival Hebrew for Your Trip
  5. Make the Most of Your Trip and Prepare in Advance with HebrewPod101

Before You Go – לפני הנסיעה (Lifney ha-Nesi’ah

To get the most out of your trip to Jerusalem, it’s best to prepare yourself with a little background information about the city’s long history as well as some basic travel info. 

Obviously, you can enjoy Jerusalem even if you show up clueless. But considering the thousands of years of stories that the very stones seem to breathe, acquainting yourself even briefly with the city’s history will definitely make for a more meaningful visit. 

We’ll also look at the layout of Jerusalem’s Old City, discuss when the tourist season is, and cover a basic packing list to help you show up prepared for any eventuality.


Jerusalem at Dusk

A Short History of the Holy City

ירושלים (Yerushalayim), or Jerusalem, is located in the Judean Mountains, or הרי יהודה (Harey Yehudah), between the Mediterranean Sea (Ha-Yam ha-Tikhon) and the Dead Sea, or ים המלח (Yam ha-Melakh). 

Though there is evidence that Jerusalem may have been first inhabited by humans as early as the Early Bronze Age, some 5,500 years ago, the city is believed to have risen to prominence sometime between the eleventh and tenth centuries BCE. During this time, it was the capital of the Israelite United Monarchy as established under King David and consolidated under his son, King Solomon.

King Solomon is credited with building the Holy Temple, called בית המקדש (Beyt ha-Mikdash) in Hebrew. To this day, it remains the locus of Jewish prayer and the holiest place on Earth for Jews. Remnants of the Temple, most notably the Western Wall, or הכותל המערבי (Ha-Kotel ha-Ma’aravi), still draw in pilgrims from all over the world. It’s customary to place pieces of paper with prayers written on them between the cracks of the stones of this ancient wall.

The Babylonians occupied Jerusalem in 586 BCE, destroyed the Holy Temple, and exiled much of the Jewish population. Half a century later, King Cyrus the Great of Persia defeated the Babylonians and invited back the exiled Jews and allowed them to rebuild their Holy Temple in Jerusalem. This rebuilt Temple stood as the Jewish center of political and religious power until the Roman Exile in the year 70 CE, when the Temple was once again destroyed—this time without being rebuilt. In-between its two destructions, it’s worth mentioning that the Temple was sacked, looted, and defiled (though not destroyed) by the Hellenistic Seleucid Empire under Antiochus IV Epiphanes when he invaded and occupied Israel and Jerusalem in 168 BCE. The Temple was eventually won back and rededicated by the Maccabees.

Menorah

Following the Roman Exile, Jerusalem pertained to the Roman, Byzantine, and Sassanid Empires, then a myriad of Muslim Caliphates interspersed with brief periods of Christian Crusader rule, and followed by long periods under Mamluk (and later, Ottoman) rule. The latter ended in World War I, when the British defeated the Turks in the Sinai and Palestine Campaign, the result of which saw British rule over the region—including Jerusalem—under the British Mandate. Jerusalem was finally returned to Jewish hands in 1948, with the British exit from then-Palestine following the U.N. vote to partition the region to an Arab and Jewish state.

Afterwards, Jerusalem was to be divided in the course of the imminent War of Independence, with east Jerusalem (including the Western Wall) falling outside Israeli control. Jerusalem was declared reunified by Israel in 1967 during the Six Day War and made its capital, with Israeli government organs moving there from the city of Tel Aviv.

Today, Jerusalem bears traces, architectural and otherwise, of all the different stages of its long history of conquests. Indeed, one can literally trace the timeline of history by visiting different places in the city that pertained to different empires over the course of time. 

And on top of all this history, of course, Jerusalem is home to a kaleidoscope culture forged by the fusion between old and new stories, local traditions, and the rainbow of influences from the ongoing influx of immigrants and tourists. It’s a unique case of the ancient and the modern in symbiosis.

The Weather in Jerusalem

Clouds

Jerusalem sees little to no precipitation between May and October. April, May, and October are the most pleasant of these months, with average temperatures between 20º Celsius (68° Fahrenheit) and 25º Celsius (77° Fahrenheit). July and August are the warmest months, with average temperatures of 28° Celsius (82° Fahrenheit), although it obviously can and does get hotter. June and September are also still quite warm, but the good news is that throughout this period without precipitation, Jerusalem, with an elevation of 785 meters (2,575 feet) above sea level, remains fairly dry. Obviously, the elevation also contributes to cooler evening temperatures than one might find along Israel’s coastal plain, for example.

The rainy season sets in toward the end of October and typically lasts into April. January is usually the coldest and wettest month, with an average high temperature of 11° Celsius (51° Fahrenheit). It can and does also snow in Jerusalem, thanks to the elevation, though most of the city’s precipitation comes in the form of cold rain.

When to Visit Jerusalem

Taking the climate into account, the best time to visit Jerusalem weather-wise is from April to May and from October to November, when the weather is usually mild and pleasant. However, major Jewish holidays may fall during these time frames—namely the High Holy Days, Sukkot, and Passover—and the city will inevitably be packed, regardless of the weather.

Old City vs. New City Jerusalem

Alleyways

A general fact about Jerusalem you should be aware of is that it’s divided into the Old City, or העיר העתיקה (Ha-’Ir ha-’Atikah), which is delineated by the old city walls, and the rest of Jerusalem, which is quite sprawling. 

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Old City represented the extent of Jerusalem’s development until the first Jewish settlement outside the walls in the nineteenth century. Beyond, at the time, lay an expanse of wilderness, with the added deterrent of desert marauders plundering wayfarers. The Old City contains the lion’s share of historic sites tourists tend to visit, including the city’s walls and gates themselves. That said, there’s also plenty of history to be found outside the Old City limits.

Though today it’s a large and spread-out city, the New City was slow in coming at the start. Between 1859 and 1860, in light of overcrowding and generally poor conditions within the city walls, Jewish benefactors Moses Montefiori and Judah Touro built the first Jewish settlement outside of them. Mishkenot Sha’ananim (משכנות שאננים, literally: “Peaceful Habitations”) was a hard sell at first, despite the improved housing it offered. It was in territory subject to Bedoin attacks, lying as it did outside the protection of Jerusalem’s walls. However, Jews were ultimately incentivized to move there, and a protective wall and gate were constructed around the neighborhood for added protection. 

Two additional Jewish neighborhoods were built outside the city walls in 1869: Mahane Israel (מחנה ישראל, literally: “The Camp of Israel”) and Nahalat Shiv’a (נחלת שבעה, literally: “The Seven’s Estate,” in reference to the seven families who founded it). This marked a trend that slowly picked up momentum, and which has continued to boom ever since.

Language in Jerusalem

People with Speech Bubbles

Even if your Hebrew is basic or non-existent, you’ll be able to get by just fine in Jerusalem. Public officials, such as police, and most people under age fifty should speak some English—at least enough to direct a tourist. However, Hebrew will no doubt get you much further, so it’s wise to brush up before your visit. You’ll also find plenty of Arabic speakers, especially in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City and in East Jerusalem. Thanks to more recent waves of immigration, you may also find speakers of just about any other language you can think of, most notably Russian, Amharic, and French.

Essential Packing List

Suitcase

While everyone’s packing list will be somewhat unique, the following is a list of essential items you would be wise to bring with you on your trip to Jerusalem.

  1. Clothes suitable for the time of year you’re traveling, plus something warmer or cooler for evenings, sudden changes of temperature, outings to the beach or desert, etc.
  2. A rain jacket or umbrella, if you’re traveling during the rainy season
  3. Gloves, a scarf, and warm outerwear for cold weather (You’d be surprised how cold Jerusalem can feel, even if the thermometer isn’t reading as low as you would think!)
  4. Sunglasses—a must!
  5. A brimmed hat or other head covering
  6. Sunscreen
  7. Comfortable shoes or sandals for walking
  8. A water bottle
  9. Maps to navigate
  10. A journal to record your experiences
  11. A camera or your cellphone for snapping selfies
  12. Modest clothing if you plan on entering any holy sites or neighborhoods
  13. Your best negotiation skills for haggling at the market!

Must-See Places for Shorter Trips (1-3 Days)

Girl with Camera

Now that we’ve covered Jerusalem’s history and have our suitcases packed, let’s take a look at the top five places you should put on your Jerusalem travel list.

1. The Old City – העיר העתיקה (Ha-’Ir ha-’Atikah)

As mentioned earlier, the Old City is the geographic and historical heart of Jerusalem—this makes it one of those places you must visit in Jerusalem to make your trip complete. There are four quarters of the Old City: the Jewish Quarter, the Muslim Quarter, the Christian Quarter, and the Armenian Quarter. Each quarter has its own attractions, so let’s have a brief look at each one.

Jewish Quarter – הרובע היהודי (Ha-Rova’ ha-Yehudi)

The Jewish Quarter centers around the Western Wall Plaza, with steps and alleys winding out of the broad open space into a tight labyrinth of a neighborhood. The main attraction is obviously the Western Wall itself. 

Note that there’s a men’s side and a women’s side, and that men should wear a head covering and women modest clothing if approaching the wall. 

While the Western Wall is the last exposed remnant of the ancient Holy Temple, you can also explore tunnels with access to additional excavated remnants. Apart from the Western Wall, the Cardo is another great spot. Dating from Byzantine times, these are remnants of the original colonnaded structures that lined what was the city’s main thoroughfare in Roman times.

Muslim Quarter – הרובע המוסלמי (Ha-Rova’ ha-Muslemi)

The Muslim Quarter is more crowded and active than the sleepier Jewish Quarter, and its main attraction is the market section where you can buy all sorts of goods—both cheap and luxury, genuine and imitation. Just be sure to pack your bartering skills, as price tags are definitely only a suggestion (if they can be found at all). It’s also a great place to grab some authentic חומוס (khummus), or “hummus,” and Arabic pastries, or to smoke a נרגילה (nargilah), or “hookah.”

Christian Quarter – הרובע הנוצרי (Ha-Rova’ ha-Notzri)

The Christian Quarter is home to about forty sites holy to Christians, and is therefore a destination for priests and pilgrims from across the globe. At its heart lies the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where Jesus is believed to be buried according to some traditions. The Via Dolorosa passes through the Christian Quarter, as well as the Armenian Quarter.

Armenian Quarter – הרובע הארמני (Ha-Rova’ ha-Armeni)

The smallest quarter, the Armenian Quarter, is full of surprises. As Armenia was the first country to adopt Christianity as its official religion, the Armenion Church long held a place of importance in Christendom, though its influence has waned with the years. This quarter is a peaceful collection of ancient churches. Be sure to check out St. Mark’s Chapel, the St. James Cathedral, and the Armenian Compound and its Armenian museum.

2. Mahane Yehuda Market – שוק מחנה יהודה (Shuk Makhaneh Yehudah)

Simply put, this is one of the greatest open markets on Earth. Part open and part roofed, the market offers an endless array of colors, smells, sounds, and, of course, tastes. Peruse the stalls of vegetable and fruit vendors half-singing, half-shouting at each other across the alleyway as they compete over who has the best or cheapest produce. Or stop for some exquisite coffee or delicious food in one of the many hole-in-the-wall cafés and restaurants tucked between and behind the carts of wares.

The Shuk is a great place to buy anything from food to hardware to souvenirs. Just be sure to shop around and check out the prices before you commit. And definitely try some of the local specialties, such as:

  • זיתים (zeytim) – “olives,” of which you’ll see more varieties than you would have thought possible
  • חלווה (khalvah) – a pastry made from tahini paste
  • בורקס (burekas) – baked pastries made of a thin flaky dough and filled with cheese, spinach, etc.

3. City of David – עיר דוד (‘Ir David)

One of Jerusalem’s most active archaeological sites, this is a must for any lover of history. The oldest part of Jerusalem, it was settled during the Canaanite period. According to the Bible, King David captured the city and brought the Ark of the Covenant there some 3,000 years ago. 

There have been excavations since the 1850s, so there’s always something interesting to see, including new finds. The site’s highlights include the ancient waterways that fed the city in times of old, the first palace built in the city, and even an ancient necropolis. Be sure to wear clothes and footwear you don’t mind getting wet. 

You can explore the above-ground portion of this site for free, but it’s well worth paying for admission to the underground portion, and even hiring a licensed guide to give you a tour.

4. Mt. of Olives – הר הזיתים (Har haZeitim)

This site is famous among both Jews and Christians for religious reasons; even the non-religious love this site for its stunning vistas of Jerusalem’s landscape. From the top, you can see the Old City and Temple Mount, as well as the surrounding Hinom Valley, or גיא בן הינום (Gai ben Hinom), and Judean Desert, or מדבר יהודה (Midbar Yehudah). 

Landmarks along the Mt. of Olives include several churches (such as the Lutheran Church of the Ascension and the Russian Orthodox church of the same name), as well as the Seven Arches Hotel. In addition, the Jewish Cemetery on the Mt. of Olives is the oldest and most important cemetery for Jews. Religious Jews believe that their bodies will be resurrected when the Messiah comes to rebuild the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Therefore, it’s considered an honor to be buried close to where it’s believed this will take place.

5. Haram Al-Sharif – הר הבית (Har ha-Bayit), “Temple Mount”

Holy to Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike, this is the site where Abraham is said to have been ordered to offer his son up as a sacrifice to God. It’s also the spot where Solomon founded the Holy Temple, and the Prophet Muhammad is said to have ascended to Heaven from here. 

The plaza, which many Jews consider taboo to enter, hovers above the Old City and is centered around the Dome of the Rock. It’s perhaps Jerusalem’s most iconic landmark. The southern side of the mount is home to one of the oldest mosques in the world: the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Note that while the plaza is open to people of all religious denominations, non-Muslim visitors are prohibited from entering the Dome of the Rock or the Al-Aqsa Mosque, as well as from praying anywhere on the site.

Highly Recommended Places for a Longer Trip (4-7 Days or Longer)

Dead Sea

If you have a bit more time to spend here, we would like to recommend a few additional things to visit in Jerusalem and the surrounding areas. Let’s have a look.

6. Israel Museum – מוזיאון ישראל (Muze’on Yisra’el)

This museum covers nearly 50,000 square meters and has a six-acre sculpture garden. It features all manner of collections, from prehistoric archaeology to contemporary art. There’s also a phenomenal variety of Judaica and Jewish arts from different Jewish communities across the world, and from different time periods. The museum’s children’s wing is its most interactive section, and there are special events and activities available for kids during Jewish holidays and school vacations.

7. Tisch Family Zoological Gardens in Jerusalem – גן החיות התנ”כי בירושלים על שם משפחת טיש (Gan ha-Khayot ha-Tanakhi be-Yerushalayim ‘al Shem Mishpakhat Tish)

Popularly known as the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo, this zoo is located in Jerusalem’s Malha neighborhood. Its most notorious feature is its Afro-Asiatic wildlife collection, which showcases many animals that were described in the Hebrew Bible. It has also had much success breeding endangered species. 

The zoo, much of which is designed in an open format, features animals and birds kept in their natural habitats, ranging from an African savannah to a tropical rainforest, and even to an underground world of mice and cockroaches. Each animal or bird mentioned in the Bible has a display showing the relevant Biblical verse in Hebrew, Arabic, and English.

8. Yad Vashem – יד ושם, literally: “Hand and Name”

This museum is dedicated to the Holocaust, its victims, and its survivors; although visiting is definitely an intense experience, it commemorates an integral part of Israel’s story and the story of the Jewish people in general. 

Located on Mount Herzl, or הר הרצל (Har Hertzel), the memorial consists of a research institute in addition to other centers of education. You’ll also find the International School/Institute for Holocaust Studies as well as the widely visited Holocaust History Museum. The latter includes the Children’s Memorial, the Hall of Remembrance, and the Museum of Holocaust Art.

9. Dead Sea – ים המלח (Yam ha-Melkah), “Salt Sea”

If you have the time, this is one of the best places to visit near Jerusalem for a fun day trip. The lowest point on Earth, the main attraction of the Dead Sea is its salty waters, whose salt concentration is 34%, ten times more than seawater. Typically, visitors enjoy floating effortlessly in the water, which is impossible to really swim in due to the salinity. Additionally, the mud from the bed and shore of the Dead Sea is considered the world over to do dermatological wonders. For this reason, mud baths, rubs, and massages are quite popular here.

10. Ein Gedi (עין גדי)

Another fantastic day trip is Ein Gedi, a reserve on the same route as that to the Dead Sea. This desert oasis features two parallel canyons, known as Wadi David (נחל דוד) and Wadi Arugot (נחל ערוגות), each one boasting stunning sights and hiking trails. These short walks go along streams that lead to year-round waterfalls and freshwater pools to take a dip in; you’ll also find yourself surrounded by surprisingly lush vegetation in the heart of the desert. The reserve is also populated by Nubian ibex and boulder-dwelling hyraxes, and it features the ruins of an ancient synagogue with a stunning fifth-century mosaic floor.

Bonus: Survival Hebrew for Your Trip

Swiss Army Knife

Finally, let’s take a look at some of the most useful words and phrases to practice before your trip to Jerusalem (or even during your flight there!). Just like in any other country, knowing a few words—and even just the fact that you’ve made the effort—can go a long way with the locals, even if they speak English.

  1. שלום
    Shalom.
    “Hello.” / “Goodbye.” (literally: “Peace.”)
  1. תודה
    Todah.
    “Thanks.”
  1. להתראות
    Lehitra’ot.
    “See you later.”
  1. סליחה
    Slikha.
    “Sorry.”
  1. יופי
    Yofi.
    “Nice.” / “Great.”
  1. אני לא מבין/מבינה
    Ani lo mevin/mevinah.
    “I don’t understand.”
  1. איפה השירותים?
    Eyfoh ha-sherutim?
    “Where is the bathroom?”
  1. כמה זה עולה?
    Kamah zeh oleh?
    “How much does this cost?”
  1. אקח אותו!
    Ekakh oto!
    “I’ll take it!”
  1. הצילו!
    Hatzilu!
    “Help!”

Make the Most of Your Trip and Prepare in Advance with HebrewPod101

As I’m sure you can see, Jerusalem and Israel in general are fascinating places to explore, full of culture, history, and more. For such a small country, Israel contains quite a variety of sights, experiences, and even micro-climates. 

But why not make your trip even more meaningful by learning something about where you’re going and the people who live there? After all, there’s nothing quite as satisfying as traveling abroad and being able to communicate with the locals in their own language, especially if you also know something about their country and culture.

We at HebrewPod101 are dedicated to providing you with enriching materials that will not only help you learn Hebrew, but also get you acquainted with Israel, Israeli and Jewish culture, and anything else that can make your experience with the language and country more meaningful and interesting.

We hope you have a wonderful trip to Jerusalem! But before you book your flight, is there anything we missed? Feel free to get in touch and let us know if there’s anything else you’d like to know about Jerusalem, Israel as a whole, or the Hebrew language in general. Shalom!

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English Words in the Hebrew Language: Do You Speak Hebrish?

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Did you know that modern Hebrew is literally riddled with words borrowed from or inspired by English? While the modern age, globally interconnected as it is, has seen many languages absorb some words from English, the prevalence of English words in the Hebrew language may be considered a unique phenomenon. 

This is because Hebrew remained completely unspoken for almost two millennia, and thus did not evolve its lexicon naturally as other, continuously used languages did. When Jews finally did begin reviving Hebrew in the late nineteenth century, there was a vast void of missing vocabulary needed to describe all the trappings of modernity. Moreover, from 1917 until 1948, then-Palestine (what is now Israel and the Palestinian territories) was under British rule, making English a natural source to draw on in cases where Hebrew lacked a certain word or phrase.

In fact, there are numerous cases of Hebrew speakers opting for an English word even when there is a good Hebrew word for something!

The revival of Hebrew was initially a very conscious effort, led chiefly by master linguist and mad idealist Eliezer ben Yehuda. However, as Hebrew caught hold of more and more Zionist Jews as a spoken language, it inevitably began to take on a life of its own—especially following the births of the first generations of Jews to speak Hebrew as a first language. Naturally, as time progressed, modern Hebrew shifted away from the academic sphere to become the home turf of those who spoke it natively.

Ben Yehuda, as head of the academic camp reviving the language, founded ועד הלשון העברית (Va’ad ha-Lashon ha-’Ivrit), or “The Hebrew Language Committee” in 1890. He also started the first Hebrew dictionary to include both classical and modern Hebrew words. In coining new words, he would generally first attempt to draw on Hebrew roots, or שורשים (shorashim). However, where he failed to find a relevant root or where the result was awkward, he would turn to Aramaic or Arabic in search of a source word, due to their proximity to Hebrew—both are members of the Semitic language family. However, polyglot that he was, he also drew on various other languages, as well. This was despite fierce resistance from others involved in reviving the language, who vocally rejected any foreign influence on the language. Ben Yehuda was among a minority who seemed to recognize that linguistic interchange was not only a matter of course, but also nothing to be ashamed of in a place as linguistically diverse as Israel and for a people as culturally diverse as the Jews.

Regardless of academic attempts to keep Hebrew “pure,” once Hebrew sprouted its own wings as a spoken language, speakers naturally began importing loanwords into Hebrew from the other languages they spoke or read, as well as applying linguistic features from other languages to modify proper Hebrew words. Even the academics themselves seemingly could not resist this organic change toward expanding and refining the language with some help from abroad. In 1953, The Hebrew Language Committee changed its name to האקדמיה ללשון העברית (Ha-Akademiyah la-Lashon ha-’Ivrit), or “The Academy of the Hebrew Language.” This change swapped out the Hebrew ועד (va’ad), or “committee,” for אקדמיה (akademiyah), meaning “academy.” This word derives from the Greek Akadēmos, probably reaching Hebrew by way of English’s “academy” or perhaps French’s académie.

With the passage of time, a second wave of English influence swept over the Hebrew language, thanks to immigration, tourism, and business ties to Israel on the part of English speakers. In addition, English-language media such as movies, TV shows, music, and later the Internet, have all made their mark on the language, endowing it with a trove of lexical contributions in every sphere.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at some examples of how English words have made their way into Hebrew and how they are used. And as a bonus, we’ll wrap up by taking a look at some English words whose Hebrew provenance may well surprise you. 

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Hebrew Table of Contents
  1. As-Is Loanwords
  2. Gendered Loanwords
  3. Hebrew Verbs Formed From English Words
  4. Some English-to-Hebrew Fails
  5. English Words Originating in Hebrew
  6. Let HebrewPod101 Help You Make the Link Between Hebrew and English

As-Is Loanwords

The first category of common English words in Hebrew we’ll cover are the English loanwords you’re most likely to hear Hebrew speakers use in a similar fashion to their original English counterparts. Keep in mind that their application may not always be exactly the same in Hebrew as in English.

Handing Out Loan
  1. היי
    hay
    “hi”

This one is used just the same as it is in English. This is notwithstanding the fact that שלום (shalom) is the proper Hebrew greeting, and, in fact, can also be used as a farewell.

היי! מה שלומך?
Hay! Mah shlomekh?
Hi! How are you?”

  1. ביי
    bay
    “bye”

Once again, this is used the same in Hebrew as it is in English.

היה כיף לראות אותך. ביי!
Hayah keyf lir’ot otkha. Bay!
“It was good to see you. Bye!”

  1. קול
    kul
    “cool”

This one is pretty straightforward. Israelis often use this English word in the same slang sense as English speakers do. Here’s an example:

אתה טס לניו יורק? איזה קול!
Atah tas le-Nyu York? Eyzeh kul!
“You’re flying to New York? How cool!”

  1. פליז
    pliz
    please

This is an example of an English word that has an exact Hebrew semantic parallel but is used alternatively for emphasis.

אמא, בבקשה תני לי גלידה. פליז!
Imma, bevakashah tni li glidah. Pliz!
“Mom, please give me ice cream. Please!”

Please Sign with Hands
  1. סורי
    sori
    “sorry”

This is another case where a word that exists in Hebrew—סליחה (slikhah), meaning “sorry“—may be substituted by its English equivalent for emphasis.

שכחתי להביא לך את הכסף. סורי!
Shakhakhti lehavi lekha et ha-kesef. Sori!
“I forgot to bring you the money. Sorry!”

  1. טלפון
    telefon
    telephone

האם יש לך את מספר הטלפון של רם?
Ha’im yesh lekha et mispar ha-telefon shel Ram?
“Do you have Ram’s telephone number?”

Interestingly, it was Eliezer ben Yehuda who tried to introduce an alternative word for this device: שח-רחוק (sakh-rakhok), which is derived from the following words: 

  • שיחה (sikhah) – “conversation”
  • רחוק (rakhok) – “distant”

However, this coinage was ultimately rejected by the Hebrew Language Committee, and the more universal טלפון (telefon) is still in use today.

  1. אוטו
    oto
    automobile

While the truncated form of this word (combined with its Hebrew pronunciation) may throw you off, this everyday Hebrew word simply means “automobile.” It is used synonymously with the proper Hebrew word, מכונית (mekhonit).

איפה חנינו את האוטו?
Eyfoh khaninu et ha-oto?
“Where did we park the car?”

Car
  1. אינטרנט
    internet
    internet

Though the Academy of the Hebrew Language tried to get Israelis to use the Hebrew neologism מרשתת (mirshetet), formed from the word רשת (reshet), meaning “net,” Israelis still universally use this loanword from English.

האינטרנט כאן ממש איטי.
Ha-Internet kan mamash iti.
“The Internet here is really slow.”

  1. רדיו
    radyo
    “radio”

This one is the same in Hebrew as in English.

הגבר את הרדיו. אני רוצה לשמוע את החדשות.
Hagber et ha-radyo. Ani rotzah lishmo’a et ha-khadashot.
“Turn up the radio. I want to listen to the news.”

Radio
  1. ג’ינס
    jins
    “jeans”

Ever since James Dean and Marilyn Monroe made them hip, bluejeans have seemingly been in style the world over, and Israel is no exception.

קניתי ג’ינס חדש בקניון.
Kaniti jins khadash ba-kanyon.
“I bought new jeans at the mall.”

  1. פול
    ful
    “full” / “a lot of”

This one can have either the same meaning as in English or be used slightly differently to mean a lot of something. Again, this idea can be expressed in proper Hebrew, but English is often used instead, just to be קול (kul).

יש לי פול זמן מחר. בואו ניפגש.
Yesh li ful zman makhar. Bo’u nipagesh.
“I have a lot of time tomorrow. Let’s get together.”

  1. ווליום
    volyum
    “volume”

This one is another case of an English word that has a perfectly serviceable Hebrew equivalent (עוצמה [otzmah]), but is nevertheless often preferred by Israelis, often in conjunction with our previous example.

אני אוהב לשמוע מוסיקה בפול ווליום כשאני רץ.
Ani ohev lishmo’a musikah be-ful volyum ke-she-ani ratz.
“I like to listen to music at full volume when I run.”

  1. ספיישל
    speshel
    “special”

This word is used in a way that linguists called “narrowing.” That is to say, Hebrew does not employ it to describe just anything special—the word for which is מיוחד (meyukhad)—but is rather used in specific cases, particularly in reference to a special media event or to describe taxis pre-hired to go from a given point of departure to a given destination (as opposed to a taxi flagged down as it circulates).

אנחנו נוסעים לשדה התעופה הלילה במונית ספיישל.
Anakhnu nos’im li-sdeh ha-te’ufah halaylah be-monit speshel.
“We’re headed to the airport tonight in a special taxi.”

Taxi
  1. פופקורן
    popkoren
    “popcorn”

This one is a bit funny-sounding to the English ear in its Hebrew iteration. Perhaps due to the relatively common Hebrew last name Koren, Israelis have inserted an extra vowel between the final R and N.

בא לכם פופקורן עם הסרט?
Ba lakhem popkoren ‘im ha-seret?
“Do you want popcorn with the movie?”

  1. קורס
    kurs
    “course”

This one is pretty straightforward. As in English, this is used to refer to any sort of training or shorter educational undertaking.

אני רוצה לעשות קורס צניחה חופשית בסוף השבוע.
Ani rotzeh la’asot kurs tznikhah khofshit be-sof ha-shavu’ah.
“I want to take a skydiving course this weekend.”

  1. פרויקט
    proyect
    “project”

This one is almost as-is, but it does have a modified pronunciation in Hebrew.

פרויקט העירייה החדש עלה פי שלוש מהמתכונן.
Proyekt ha-’iriyah he-khadash ‘alah pi shalosh me-ha-metukhnan.
“The municipality’s new project cost three times as much as planned.”

  1. פינישים
    finishim
    “finishing/fine touches”

This is another case of narrowing. This word is not used to say “finish”—the Hebrew word for which is either לגמור (ligmor) or לסיים (lesayem)—but specifically to refer to the fine last details in a task, work of art, etc. It’s most often used in modified form to bear the Hebrew masculine plural form (ending in -ים [-im]).

חסרים רק כמה פינישים אחרונים ואני כבר מסיים את הפרויקט.
Khaserim rak kamah finishim akharonim va-ani kvar mesayem et ha-proyect.
“I have a few finishing touches left before I can complete the project.”

  1. טנק
    tank
    “tank”

This one is an important importation from English, as Israel’s armored corps is world-famous for its military prowess. 

בצבא הייתי מפקד טנק.
Ba-tzavah hayiti mefaked tank.
“In the military, I was a tank commander.”

Tank

Gendered Loanwords

Unlike English, Hebrew is a gendered language. This means that all nouns and adjectives are either masculine or feminine. Let’s look at some cases where English words in the Hebrew language get hebracized when describing the feminine versus the masculine.

  1. ברמן
    barmen
    “bartender”

This one is taken from British English, in which barmen tend bar at pubs (versus North American English, in which bartenders tend bar at bars). Aside from the fact that this gets gendered to describe a female bartender, note that Israelis also pronounce the male singular form as if it were the plural in English.

דן הוא ברמן. גם דנה היא ברמנית.
Dan hu barmen. Gam Danah hi barmenit.
“Dan is a bartender. Dana is a bartender too.”

Bartender
  1. סנוב
    snob
    “snob”

This is another English loanword that gets gendered when describing a female.

שלמה הוא ממש סנוב. חברה שלו, יונית, היא סנובית אפילו יותר גרועה.
Shlomoh hu mamash snob. Khaverah shelo, Yonit, hi snobit afilu yoter geru’ah.
“Shlomo is a real snob. His girlfriend, Yonit, is an even worse snob.”

  1. מניאק
    maniyak
    “maniac”

This one means much the same thing in Hebrew as it does in English.

אל תהיה מניאק כמו אחותך המניאקית.
Al tihiyeh maniyak k’mo akhotkha ha-maniyakit.
“Don’t be a maniac like your maniac sister.”

Crazy Looking Man
  1. די-ג’יי
    di-jay
    “DJ”

This term, as well, means precisely the same thing in Hebrew as it does in English.

רון הוא די-ג’יי מצויין ואשתו, שרה, היא די-ג’ייאית אפילו יותר טובה.
Ron hu di-jey metzuyan ve-’ishto, Sarah, hi di-jayit afilu yoter tovah.
“Ron is a great DJ, and his wife, Sarah, is an even better DJ.

DJ at Club

Hebrew Verbs Formed From English Words

Because of its root system, Hebrew has great flexibility in the formation of new words. In some cases, Hebrew takes English words and turns them into fully functional, conjugatable Hebrew verbs. Because of the rules of ניקוד (nikkud), or “diacritical marks,” this often produces some funny-sounding results to the English ear. Here are some examples.

  1. לבלף
    lebalef
    “to bluff”

אני כבר רואה שאתה מבלף. שכחת את יום ההולדת שלי לגמרי!
Ani kvar ro’ah she-atah mevalef. Shakhakta et yom ha-huledet sheli legamrey!
“I can already see that you’re bluffing. You completely forgot my birthday!”

Poker Game
  1. למקסם
    lemaksem
    “to maximize”

כל הכבוד! מיקסמנו את המכירות שלנו ברבעון האחרון!
Kol ha-kavod! Miksamnu et ha-mekhirot shelanu ba-riv’on ha-akharon!
“Way to go! We maximized our sales in the last quarter!”

  1. לפמפם
    lepampem
    “to pump”

זה אוטו ישן. פימפמת את הבלמים?
Zeh oto yashan. Pimpamta et ha-b’lamim?
“This is an old car. Did you pump the brakes?”

  1. לדסקס
    ledaskes
    “to discuss”

בוא נדסקס את זה ביום ראשון אצלי במשרד.
Bo nedaskes et zeh be-Yom Rishon etzli ba-misrad.
“Let’s discuss it Sunday in my office.”

Women Having Discussion at Work
  1. לדקלם
    ledaklem
    “to declaim” / “to recite”

בני בן השנתיים כבר יודע לדקלם את אותיות האל”ף-בי”ת.
B’ni ben ha-shnatayim kvar yode’a ledaklem et otiyot ha-alef-beyt.
“My two-year-old son can already recite the letters of the alphabet.”

Some English-to-Hebrew Fails

A final category of loanwords that will hopefully bring a smile to your lips (as you practice pronouncing them) are Hebrew words that originated in English but went through some distortion, or even corruption, during their entry into Hebrew. 

  1. פנצ’ר
    pancher
    “puncture” / “flat tire”

This one would make sense to the English ear if the pronunciation weren’t so different from the original. Note that ‘puncture’ is the more common British way of referring to what North Americans usually call a ‘flat tire.’

אני חייב למצוא מוסך תיכף מיד. יש לי פנצ’ר.
Ani khayav limtzo musakh tekhef u-miyad. Yesh li pancher.
“I need to find a garage right away. I have a flat tire.”

Flat Tire
  1. אינסטלטור
    instelator
    “plumber”

One can only assume that whoever coined this word had the English verb “install” in mind, and figured that an ‘instelator would be the person installing a sink or toilet tank. Though a proper Hebrew word for “plumber” does exist—שרברב (shravrav)—this Hebrish word is far more common in Israel today.

יש לך מספר של איזה אינסטלטור? כל הבית שלי מוצף!
Yesh lekha mispar shel eyzeh ‘instelator? Kol ha-bayit sheli mutzaf!
“Do you have the number of a plumber? My whole house is flooded!”

Plumber
  1. סנפלינג
    snepling
    “rappelling”

This is the product of another linguistic mixup. Someone must have heard the term “snap link” while rock climbing, and, confusing the “ink” for an “-ing” suffix, coined this word. Today, Israelis (including in the military!) use this word to refer to rappelling.

למדתי לעשות סנפלינג כחלק מקורס מצילים בצבא.
Lamadti la’asot snepling ke-khelek mi-kurs metzilim ba-tzava.
“I learned rappelling as part of a rescuers course in the army.”

  1. טוקבקים
    tokbekim
    “feedback”

This one comes from the TalkBack Reader Response System, one of the first online systems to allow users to post feedback on a website. Between the linguistic “widening” (the opposite of narrowing) of TalkBack and its funny pronunciation, this one is likely to baffle the uninitiated English speaker.

ראית את מה שהוא כתב בטוקבקים על המאמר על הנשיא?
Ra’it et mah she-hu katav ba-tokbekim ‘al ha-ma’amar ‘al ha-nasi?
“Did you see what he wrote in the feedback on that article on the president?”

  1. לעשות פן
    la’asot fen
    “to blow-dry”

This one presumably derives from the English word “fan,” which a hairdryer certainly contains. By the logic of this phrase, blow-drying or straightening one’s hair is literally “to do the fan.”

עשיתי פן לפני המסיבה כי היו לי קרזולים.
Asiti fen lifney ha-mesibah ki hayu li kirzulim.
“I blow-dried my hair before the party because I had frizz.”

Blow Drying Hair
  1. מסטינג
    mesting
    “mess kit”

This one is a distortion of the English word “mess tin,” which traditionally was a standard-issue set of utensils for soldiers to carry in their kit, which was originally made of tin. As in the case of סנפלינג (snepling), it’s likely that the Hebrew ear misheard the final “in” as an “-ing” suffix.

אכלנו מאותו המסטינג.
Akhalnu me-oto ha-mesting.
“We ate from the same mess kit.”

(This is a common way of saying that people were brothers in arms during their military service, or that they grew up together.)

  1. סוודר
    sveder
    “sweater”

This is another commonly used Hebrish word that, due to the pronunciation, might give English speakers pause.

קר בחוץ. אשים לי סוודר.
Kar ba-khutz. Asim li sveder.
“It’s cold outside. I’m going to put on a sweater.”

Sweatshirt
  1. פאקים
    fakim
    “mistakes” / “problems” / “kinks”

If you listen carefully enough and scratch your head a bit, you may be surprised at the English word this one is based on, particularly as it’s used commonly enough in Hebrew without being considered offensive!

יש לנו עוד כמה פאקים לסדר בתוכנית השנתית.
Yesh lanu ‘od kamah fakim lesader ba-tokhnit ha-shnatit.
“We have a few more kinks to iron out in the annual plan.”

English Words Originating in Hebrew

Did you know there are also a few English words with Hebrew roots? While Hebrew pales in its contribution to the English language when compared to Latin, Greek, or French, it has nevertheless registered a few key entries—some of which you may never have imagined were based in Hebrew. The vast majority of these words, it should be noted, come from Biblical rather than modern Hebrew

  1. behemoth

This word comes from the Hebrew word בהמות (behemot), meaning “beasts.” In English, the word is typically used to describe something of large proportions, if not necessarily a living creature.

  1. Sabbath

This word comes from the Hebrew word שבת (Shabbat), which originally referred to the seventh day of creation in the Genesis story. God is described as having rested from his work of creating the Universe on this day. לשבות (lishbot), the verb related to this word, means “to rest” or “to desist.”

Sabbath Challah Bread
  1. Sabbatical

This word also comes from לשבות (lishbot). In English, it refers to a professional leave of absence, typically every few years.

  1. amen

From אמן (amen), meaning “verily,” this is used in Hebrew the same way as it is in English, as an affirmation of beliefs or hopes.

People Praying at Church
  1. hallelujah

In a similar vein, this comes from the Hebrew הללויה (haleluyah), meaning “praise the Lord.”

  1. cider

This word derives from the Biblical word שכר (shekhar), which referred to some type of fermented alcoholic drink, although scholars are unsure precisely how it was prepared. It’s ironic to note that Israelis today call the beverage cider, or סיידר (sayder)!

  1. jubilee

Jubilee is based on the word יובל (Yovel), referring to the Biblical practice according to which slaves were freed and lands returned to their original owners every fifty years. As this was a time of great celebration, the loanword in English came to mean “celebration.”

  1. Leviathan

The לביתן (Livyatan) is described in Genesis as one of the great sea creatures God made during the creation of the Universe. In English, it can refer to this same creature, to a large sea vessel, or to anything immense.

  1. messiah

This word comes from the Hebrew word משיח (mashi’akh), meaning “anointed.” In Biblical times, it was common practice to anoint kings with oil upon their coronation.

  1. rabbi

This word comes from the Hebrew word רב (rav), meaning “great” as well as “master.” It refers to Jewish religious leaders and teachers.

  1. macabre

This is derived from the Hebrew word מכבים (Makabim), or “Maccabees,” the heroes of the Hanukkah story. In the Middle Ages, morality plays typically featured a Chorea Maccabaeorum, or Dance of the Maccabees, probably representing the slaughter of the Maccabees. In French, this was known as the danse macabre, which evolved in English into the Dance Macabre or “Dance of Death,” eventually giving us the word ‘macabre.’

  1. schwa

This word is more likely to be familiar to linguists and language teachers. Used to refer to an unstressed vowel, it originates from the Hebrew diacritical mark שווא (shva), which denotes the same phoneme in Hebrew.

  1. seraph

This is an angelic being the Bible refers to as שרף (saraf). The English adjective “seraphic” can be used to describe great beauty.

  1. cherub

This is another angelic being referred to in the Bible, called כרוב (kruv) in Hebrew. The adjective “cherubic” is used in English to describe childlike or pristine beauty.

Scene with Angels
  1. shibboleth

This English term refers to a word, saying, practice, custom, or any other shared feature that distinguishes one group from another. It comes from the Hebrew word שיבולת (shibolet), meaning “ear of corn,” which was used by the Gileadites in the Bible as a password to identify one another. This worked because their enemy, the Ephraimites, apparently pronounced the phoneme ש (/ʃ/) as ס (/s/).

Let HebrewPod101 Help You Make the Link Between Hebrew and English

We hope you found today’s lesson interesting and informative. As you can see, Hebrew and English may not be quite as distant from one another as they first seem. In any event, we at HebrewPod101.com strive to bridge the gap so that you can learn Hebrew with clear Hebrew-language examples alongside helpful and interesting English-language explanations.

Are there any Hebrish words you’ve encountered that we didn’t cover? Any English words borrowed from Hebrew that we forgot to mention? We’re always happy to hear from our readers and students, so please get in touch with your feedback!

Until next time, bye…I mean, shalom!

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Pesach: The Jewish Passover

In Judaism, Passover is one of the most important holidays of the year. It celebrates the release of the Jews from Egypt as described in the biblical book of Exodus, and commemorates the events leading up to it. 

Maybe you’ve heard of Passover before, but never really understood what it’s about or how it’s celebrated. If so, this article will be your golden ticket to understanding the basics and getting better acquainted with Jewish culture and traditions. 

Let’s get started!

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1. What is Passover?

A Depiction of the Passover Sacrifice

Passover is a Jewish holiday celebrated for seven days during אביב (aviv), or spring. The celebration of this holiday is commanded and outlined in the biblical books of Exodus and Leviticus, and the purpose of this holiday is to commemorate the events leading up to the חירות (kherut), or freedom, of the Israelites after fleeing Egypt. 

The history of Passover in the Bible can be found in the book of Exodus, according to which the Jews were once enslaved by the people of Egypt. In the form of a burning bush, Yahweh commanded משה (Moshe), or Moses, to speak with Pharaoh about releasing the Israelites. Despite Moses’s strong faith and devotion, he lacked confidence in his speaking abilities and rather had his older brother אהרון (Aharon), or Aaron, speak on his behalf. When Pharaoh refused, Yahweh brought about the עשר מכות (Eser makot), or 10 Plagues, which wreaked havoc among the Egyptians and caused many deaths. 

The last of these plagues was the killing of all Egyptian firstborn sons, including the Pharaoh’s own son. The Israelites were spared this plague, for Yahweh commanded them to mark their doors with the blood of a lamb which would cause the Angel of Death to pass over them. It is this event which the holiday is named after. 

Passover is one of the Three Pilgrimage Festivals. You can learn about the other two on our website! 

2. When is Passover This Year?

springtime flowers in a green field

The first day of Passover begins on the fifteenth of Nissan according to the Jewish calendar. Here are the start and end dates of this holiday on the Gregorian calendar for the next ten years: 

  • 2021: March 27 – April 4
  • 2022: April 15 – April 22
  • 2023: April 5 – April 12
  • 2024: April 22 – April 29
  • 2025: April 12 – April 19
  • 2026: April 1 – April 9
  • 2027: April 21 – April 29
  • 2028: April 10 – April 18
  • 2029: March 30 – April 7
  • 2030: April 17 – April 25

3. Passover Traditions

seder tu bishvat, or Passover food

Passover traditions actually begin the morning before, on the fourteenth of Nissan. This is when observant Jews scour their homes for any trace of חמץ (khametz), or hametz. Hametz refers to any type of leavened product, which is prohibited on Passover. All of the hametz that’s found in one’s home must be burned.

Another event that takes place prior to the actual Passover holiday is the Fast of the Firstborn. This is a fast that the firstborn son of every practicing Jewish family participates in to commemorate the fact that Yahweh spared all of the Jewish firstborns in the Exodus story. However, people are allowed to break this fast in the event of a celebratory event; synagogues often host such an event so that the firstborn sons can eat during Passover.

On the evening of the first day of Passover, observant Jews have the Passover seder. This is a special meal that aids in telling the Passover story and keeping it fresh in mind. The Passover meal consists of several different foods which symbolize key aspects of the Israelites’ journey to freedom: 

  • מרור (maror), which are bitter herbs symbolizing the bitterness of the Jews’ slavery
  • חרוסת (kharoset), or charoseth, which is a sweet mix of fruit and nuts with honey, symbolizing the mortar Jewish slaves used in building
  • מצה (matzah), or matzo, which is an unleavened bread product symbolizing the unleavened bread eaten by the fleeing Israelites

It’s also customary to pour wine for each guest, as well as a glass for the Prophet Elijah who is said to visit the homes of those observing the seder. 

Each of these food elements is held and consumed in accordance with the Exodus story from the Haggadah. In addition, the recital of the Four Questions takes place during the seder. 

The following day (the sixteenth of Nissan) marks another milestone on the Jewish calendar: it’s fifty days before Shavuot. It begins the Counting of the Omer, during which Jews begin the countdown to Shavuot. 

  • See our vocabulary on Israeli Food to learn more useful cuisine-related words! 

4. Afikoman

Another fascinating Passover tradition involves the children. Parents cut off part of the matzah from the seder, called the אפיקומן (Afikoman), and hide it. The children are then encouraged to find it in order to receive presents as compensation. 

A common variation of this tradition is for the children to steal the Afikoman themselves and return it in exchange for gifts. 

5. Essential Hebrew Vocabulary for Passover

different Passover foods

Here are some of the most important vocabulary words and phrases for Passover in Israel:

  • Spring – אביב (aviv), noun [m]
  • Arm – זרוע (z’roa’), noun [f]
  • Egypt – מצרים (mitz’rayim), noun [f]
  • Passover – פסח (Pesakh), noun [m]
  • Red Sea – ים סוף (Yam Suf), noun [m]
  • Pilgrimage – עליה לרגל (aliya la-regel), noun [f]
  • Afikoman – אפיקומן (Afikoman), noun [m]
  • Aaron – אהרון (Aharon), noun [m]
  • 10 Plagues – עשר מכות (Eser makot), noun [f]
  • Song of Songs – שיר השירים (Shir ha`shirim), noun [m]
  • Passover Sacrifice – קורבן פסח (Korban Pesakh), noun [m]
  • Pharaoh – פרעה (Par-oh), noun [m]
  • Moses – משה (Moshe), noun [m]
  • Matzo – מצה (matzah), noun [f]
  • Maror – מרור (maror), noun [m]
  • Hametz – חמץ (khametz), noun [m]
  • Freedom – חירות (kherut), noun [f]
  • Cleaning – נקיון (nikayon), noun [m]
  • Charoseth – חרוסת (kharoset), noun [f]

Also be sure to head over to our Passover vocabulary list! Here, you can listen to the pronunciation of each word and practice along with the recordings.

Final Thoughts

The Jewish Passover is a defining holiday for Jews in Israel and around the world, so we hope you enjoyed learning about it with us! What are some of the important religious holidays in your country? 

If you liked this lesson and want to continue exploring Israeli culture and the Hebrew language, make sure to explore HebrewPod101.com and take advantage of our numerous resources. Our free vocabulary lists, online dictionary, and numerous audio and video lessons will help you reach your language learning goals sooner than you think! 

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