The Uniqueness of Israel
Top 5 Israeli Expressions
During your gap year with Aardvark you are guaranteed to learn a lot of Hebrew and vastly improve your language skills. While you will learn Hebrew in a formal manner in Ulpan, there are some phrases and expressions that they may not teach you but you are sure to hear time and time again while spending time with Israelis.
It won’t take long to notice that whenever Israelis want to get a move on, are waiting for something impatiently or are simply expressing approval for an idea they use the word ‘Yalla’ or ‘יאללה’. Yalla is actually an Arabic word that has been incorporated into everyday Hebrew. It means ‘let’s go’ or ‘come on’ and has got to be one of the most commonly used words in Israel. In many ways the word is very typical of the impatient nature of Israelis but it is just as often used to express enthusiasm and approval for an idea.
Just to confuse you, you will find that there are also a number of phrases which mean the complete opposite of what you would expect. For instance, the phrase ‘Chaval al hazman’ or ‘חבל על הזמן’. Literally translated the phrase means ‘a shame about the time’ which you would think would mean that something is a waste of time. However, Israelis use it for the exact opposite; it is used to mean that something is really cool. So if you ask someone’s opinion on something and they really like it don’t be fooled into thinking it’s a waste of time.
Israelis don’t like to think that anyone is getting the better of them and they want to avoid being known as a ‘Frier’ or ‘פריר’ at all costs. This simple word is slang for ‘sucker’ and you will often hear people warning each other not to be a ‘frier’ if they think that their friend is being taken advantage of. Of course, it is also used to gloat over the misfortunes of others when they do manage to get one up on somebody.
Some Israeli expressions are quite odd and linguists would probably enjoy researching where they come from. One such expression is ‘Kapara Alecha’ or ‘כפרה עליך’ which literally means ‘atonement over you’. The phrase is used to express affection and appreciation and if someone says it to you then you are definitely in their good books. The word Kapara is actually a reference to the ritual that some Jews follow before Yom Kippur whereby they take a chicken and swing it over their head to help atone for their sins but it is not clear how this translates into the modern day saying.
Another slightly odd expression that you are sure to come across is ‘Sof Ha’Derech’ or ‘סוף הדרך’ which literally means ‘the end of the way/road’. This is another of those expressions which sound negative but is actually used to express positive feelings. So rather than use this when people are stuck or don’t know what to do, it is actually used to describe something as being really, really good. You’ll hear it used when people are describing a great event they went to, such as a party or a wedding, or if they have eaten in a particularly good restaurant and so on.
These are just a few of many weird and wonderful expressions that are in everyday use in Israel. While spending time abroad in Israel you will learn these and many others and in no time at all you are sure to sound as if you were born and raised an Israeli.