18 essential Hebrew words and phrases
In honor of Israel's 60th Birthday, we thought you should learn a few key words and phrases in Hebrew that will bring you closer to Israel's people and culture. This vocabulary will be useful on your next trip to Israel– or on your next trip to Ventura Boulevard. Delight your Israeli friends, teach your kids or impress a date. What better way to mark this milestone in Jewish history than to do a very Jewish thing: learn!
1. Shalom — [shuh-lohm] hello; goodbye; peace. Shalom Yossi, how are you? Probably the most uttered Hebrew word in the dictionary, its three meanings make it an indispensable tool for everyday conversation, as well as international peace summits.
2. Slicha — [slee-chah] sorry; excuse me. Slicha, I was here first. A polite word that'll come in handy when trying to get an Israeli's attention — or when trying to avoid a brawl.
3. Todah — [toe-DAH] thank you. Todah for the directions, bus driver. You should know how to thank people in every language; showing gratitude is a universally appreciated gesture — even with manner-deficient Israelis.
4. Naim me'od — [ny-EEM meh-ohd] very pleasant. Naim me'od to finally meet you. You can use this phrase to describe something, such as when the weather is very pleasant, but it is mostly used when meeting someone for the first time.
5. Lama? — [lah-mah] why? Lama don't you come visit more often? Israelis love to ask questions and challenge things and people. You may want to know how to do the same in order to fit in.
6. Yalla — [yah-lah] let's go; come on. Yalla, where is my food? You'll hear this word — which is actually an Arabic word adopted into Hebrew — said frequently, with impatience, with enthusiasm, with anger, in a song, in conversation. It typifies the impatient nature of Israelis — and Arabs for that matter.
7. Ma koreh? — [mah kor-EH] what's happening? Hi Tali, ma koreh with you lately? Young Israelis often substitute the more formal “how are you” with “ma koreh,” perhaps reflecting their interest in the recent events of a person's life as opposed to the person's feelings.
8. Chaval al ha zman — [cha-vahl ahl ha-Z-mahn] (slang) amazing; great. Thailand was chaval al ha zman. This phrase translated literally means “shame on the time” which makes no sense, but everyone — and we mean everyone — uses it to describe a wonderful experience. The next time someone asks you how your trip to Israel was, be sure to answer: chaval al ha zman!
9. Neshika — [neh-SHI-kah] kiss. Give me a big neshika. An extremely affectionate and warm people, Israelis tend to give each other abundant hugs and kisses, even if they have just met.
10. Ani ohev otach/Ani ohevet otchah — [AH-nee oh-hev oh-tach/AH-nee oh-hevett oht-cha] I love you (male to a female)/(female to a male). Dad, ani ohevet otchah. Saying I love you in a different language adds some spice to those three little words.
11. Neshama — [neh-sha-mah] soul; (slang) darling. Neshama, could you make me some coffee? A beautiful and spiritual word, you'll often hear both men and women using it as a term of endearment with each other, with children and with friends. It's just one example of how spirituality is a part of everyday life and speech in Israel.
12. Mishpacha — [Mish-PA-cha] family. I have a lot of mishpacha in Ashdod. Israelis are fiercely loyal to their families, which tend to be large in number. The country's tiny size means distant family members see each other much more frequently than American families, so you may find yourself being introduced to people way out there on the family tree.
13. Frier — [fry-ehr] (slang) sucker. Do I look like a frier to you? Being duped is one of the worst things that could happen to an Israeli. They don't like being taken advantage of or fooled, and they don't like being accused of doing it to someone else, so keep this word handy when haggling for prices at the shuk (bazaar).
14. Ezeh bassa — [eh-zah BAHS-ah] (slang) what a disappointment. Ezeh bassa, there's no cute girls at this party. Speak this phrase — another loaner from Arabic– within earshot of an Israeli, and you'll receive warm acknowledgement for being “in the know.” This is by far the coolest — though definitely not the only — way to express displeasure in Hebrew.
15. At chamuda/ata chamud — [aht chah-moo-dah/aht-ah chah-mood] you're cute (to a female)/(to a male). Hey you, at chamuda. If you want to hit on a gorgeous Israeli girl, you better know how to do it in her language. Israeli women are notoriously difficult to crack, but a compliment is a good start.
16. Chagiga — [cha-gi-ga] party; celebration. There will be an enormous chagiga in Tel Aviv on Independence Day. There is always a reason to celebrate in Israel — holidays, weddings, birthdays — and they sure know how to throw a party in the Holy Land!
17. Meshugah — [meh-shoo-gah] crazy person. Slow down, you're driving like a meshugah! You should have at least one insult in your arsenal in order to get through a trip to Israel, and this is a good one: not too offensive and applicable in many situations and to many people.
18. Tikvah — [teek-vah] hope. We still have tikvah that there will be peace. The Israeli national anthem is called “Hatikvah” — The Hope — and this word is so fundamental to the Jewish homeland's existence that every Jew in the world should know it.
Say Hello to a Sane ‘Goodbye’ Brunch
The wedding was beautiful. Everything went off without a hitch. Now it’s time for the farewell finale — the "Goodbye, it’s been great to see you, thanks so much for coming" Sunday brunch.
Your mishpacha may have traveled from around the world to attend this wedding, and because it’s rare that they’re gathered all together for the entire weekend, it’s your pleasure to send them off well fed.
Ironically, this casual assembly — when everyone’s outfits and hairdos (to say nothing of their sense of humor) are a bit droopy — can be the most upbeat, emotionally intimate happening of the entire weekend.
When folks keep bumping into each other at one of the happiest events in a Jewish family’s life, friendships are forged, long-lost cousins have kissed and pledged an eternity of e-mails; maybe there’s even a shiddach or two in the offing.
This is the time when people want to linger — even though they’ve got to hurry. Suddenly everyone is aware the magic they’re feeling comes and goes in the blink of an eye.
Food For Thought
Make sure to include a separate invitation to the brunch, as well as all other events, with your wedding invitation. A clear map will make everyone happy. Invite guests for a flexible time, open house, giving them space to relax or pack before coming over. Do not run out of food so stragglers are greeted by an empty table.
Give guests a "bracelet" (purchased at a party store) or colored ribbon to put on their glass or coffee mugs so they won’t get them mixed up. Since people will be grazing, use luncheon-size paper napkins instead of cloth. The only silverware you will need on the table is forks.
Let There Be Lightness
Since you’ve done the formal and traditional, now is the time to get whimsical: kick back, take off your shoes and thank yourself for the memories you’ve created. Decorate your living room with a banner: "Thanks for the Memories." "Perseverance is Healthy for Parents of the Bride and Other Living Things."
Create a fanciful centerpiece for the table. Include props from the wedding — extra invitations, wedding books, photos of your daughter growing up. Make original bouquets of bright flowers such as daisies or daffodils sticking out of oatmeal boxes. Take an egg carton; place a small amount of dirt in each of the 12 holders, then put a tiny, flowering plant in each one. Line up containers of seasonal flowering plants and invite guests to take them home.
Fruit and Nut Granola
Store granola in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
4 cups assorted flakes (oat, wheat, rye, triticale, millet)
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup dark molasses
1/4 cup canola or safflower oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup wheat germ
1/2 cup wheat or rice bran
1/2 cup almonds, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup sesame seeds
3/4 cup raisins or mixture of dried cranberries, blueberries, raspberries, pineapple
Mix flakes with honey, molasses, oil and salt. Spread thinly on a cookie sheet. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes at 300F, until lightly browned. Stir frequently while baking to prevent burning. Remove from oven. Mix in wheat germ, almonds, seeds, raisins and dried fruit. Serve with fresh fruit, yogurt and milk.
Makes 4 cups
Scrambled Eggs Topped With
Tomato and Basil
8 large, firm tomatoes, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch slices
2 cups basil, sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil or more, as needed for sautéing tomatoes
4 cloves garlic, chopped fine
2 tablespoons butter for frying eggs or more as needed
2 dozen eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup yogurt
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Sauté tomato, basil and garlic in oil in a large skillet for one minute, just to heat through. Remove from pan. Whisk eggs and milk together in bowl. In same skillet melt butter over medium heat. Pour in eggs; reduce heat to low and cook, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon until soft curds form. Stir in yogurt, salt and pepper and remove from heat. The eggs should be soft and creamy. Transfer eggs to serving platter, top with tomato mixture and serve immediately. Garnish with sprigs of fresh basil.
Olive oil for frying
4 red potatoes, sliced very thin
1/2 cup onions, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup red peppers, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
Heat olive oil on grill or non-stick skillet. When pan is hot, add potatoes, sauté until golden, about 5 to 8 minutes. Turn potatoes to other side, add onions and peppers; cook two to three minutes, until golden. If desired, add salt and pepper. Place in chafing dish to keep warm.
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup wheat germ
1 cup ripe bananas, mashed
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened,
or canola oil
1/3 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup dried pineapple
1/4 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped
1/4 cup slivered almonds
Preheat oven to 350F. In large bowl, sift together dry ingredients. Stir in wheat germ. In another bowl, mix together bananas, eggs, butter or oil, yogurt, sugar and lemon juice. When mixture is smooth, gradually stir in dry ingredients. Add raisins, dates and nuts; stir until combined. Pour into a buttered loaf pan and bake at 350F for 50 minutes or until a toothpick plunged into the center of the bread comes out clean.
Makes one loaf
Let There Be Food
In addition to the wedding brunch menu:
A basket of hard-boiled eggs: Boil organic eggs with tea bags or beets, giving them a natural, understated glaze. Or go to your local farmer’s market and buy naturally gorgeous eggs. Some varieties of chickens lay eggs of blue, aqua, green, grey and various shades of brown, tan and off white. Place a bowl of French salt and a pepper grinder nearby.
A basket of organic oranges: Set the oranges next to an electric or a hand juicer. Let guests squeeze their own juice. Place bottles of champagne in ice buckets nearby; some people might want to make their own mimosas. Include a breadboard of whole-wheat challahs, a bread knife, a dish of butter and homemade jams, jellies or marmalades. Place butter and jam spreaders in appropriate places and set a toaster nearby.
Coffee and Tea Service: Set up a separate table or use the end of your buffet table for the hot drinks. Don’t forget sugar, honey, cream and teaspoons.
Pate brisee sucre (sweet tart pastry) from French-trained Los Angeles resident, Tamara Rowland. Filling from Petra Nettelbeck, who recommends Belgian Vergoyse sugar for the filling.
For The Pastry
Pate Brisee Sucree
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1/2 cup cake flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 stick chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch bits
Set oven at 375F. In a food processor equipped with steel blade, work the flour, cake flour, sugar and salt for 30 seconds, just long enough to combine. With processor running, add butter and eggs. Work them into the dry ingredients in on-off motions until the dough forms large, moist clumps. Remove dough from work bowl, place in middle of 11-inch tart pan. Using your fingers, press dough lightly into bottom of pan to evenly cover base. Trim off excess dough. With your thumbs push dough up into sides of tart pan to create a decorative edge. Pierce bottom of pan with a fork at 1/2-inch intervals. Set it in the freezer for 10 minutes. Set tart pan on a rimmed baking sheet. Press a piece of foil directly onto the pastry. Transfer pastry to hot oven and bake it for 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from oven and let cool. Turn oven temperature down to 350F.
For The Filling
Zest and juice of two lemons
2 tablespoons heavy cream
3 tablespoons blanched almonds
2 cups granulated sugar
4 tablespoons melted butter
1 teaspoon confectioner’s sugar for sprinkling
2 tablespoons slivered almonds, browned, for garnish
1 dozen thinly sliced lemon pieces
In a food processor or blender, combine zest, juice, cream, almonds, sugar, eggs and butter. Blend until smooth. Pour into cooled pastry shell. Bake tart for about 25 minutes or until set.
Allow tart to cool completely. Dust with confectioner’s sugar, slivered almonds and lemon pieces.