My name is Josh Glucksman and I am an 18-year-old Chicagoan living in Jerusalem in Aardvark Israel. Although I have only lived here for a few months, I have quickly realized that knowing basic Hebrew is life-or-death. Okay, not in the literal sense, but it can definitely save you from getting lost, getting on the wrong bus, or, personally, saving a few shekels on produce at the shuk. This is a list of the 10 most important slang/commonly used phrases on the streets that will help all incoming gap-year students or English speakers survive in the holy land.
Achi (אחי) – my brother. Although this list is not in an order of importance, this is the most important word to know. My volleyball teammate jokes that no sentence in Hebrew is grammatically complete without adding an אחי. Use it as a term of endearment or to someone on the streets and you might even pass as Israeli!
Eizeh basah (איזה באסה) – what a bummer. Use this phrase when something isn’t going your way. From experience, I know this is a great exclamation to use in the long mail lines at the post office or when you hear about another lockdown happening soon.
Yoter zol (יותר זוֹל) – cheaper. A must-use phrase at the shuk or when bargaining at all. Israelis can smell the American on most of us, even the most well-assimilated, so be prepared to whip this out when a price seems a little fishy.
Labriut (לבריאות) – to your health. Labruit is the Hebrew way of blessing someone after they sneeze. This one is pretty self explanatory, but let’s hope you won’t have to say it to anyone on the bus or the streets during this pandemic…
Baruch Hashem (ברוך השם) – thank God. Another great exclamation to use to embrace your Jewish self and also be really extra when something goes your way.
Die! (דַי) – enough! This is a word you can use to tell someone to stop. This is extremely useful when getting out of haggling situations especially in the Old City where everyone is dying to get you to buy that tacky “Guns N Moses” t-shirt.
Ashkara (אשקרה) – literally, so true. Use this to embrace your American self when someone says something totes relatable!
Tachles (תכלס) – actually. This is tricky and gets confused often with ashkara (which is a fancy way of saying I mess them up often) but tachles is used when you are talking about something that you actually want to do or think.
Stam (סטאם) – kidding. This is a great punchline for a “sike!” style joke or just any type of humor. In my case, I use stam when I take a joke too far or say something incorrect in Hebrew and need to quickly pull out a Hebrew get-out-of-jail free card.
Yalla (יאללה) – let’s go. Yalla is the most obvious word on this list, being Arabic for let’s go. You will hear this when rushing your friends around to get on a bus or when you hear someone cough behind you.
This is just an intro list, but you should be able to add these to your toolbox in no time and be ready to roam the streets of Israel and get by. A word of unsolicited advice from me before you go: ten words isn’t enough. Chances are, people talk so fast that you won’t even be able to hear these used. It is super important when first arriving in Israel to live and breath the language: listen to the music, watch the TV shows, and most importantly, talk to as many Israelis as you can! It might be hard to hear the words and to be heard from under your mask that I KNOW you are wearing, so be louder than you need to be. Israelis have been doing this way before Corona, so I think you’re fine. Yalla bye, b’hatzlacha!