Shalom everyone! Today I want to give you some words that might come in handy for you while travelling in Israel. Language is an integral part of a culture, and learning the language of the country you’re visiting can really enhance your experience! Most of the people in Israel understand English very well, but if you want to learn some local words… Here are some words and phrases that can help you start a very small conversation:

Shalom (שלום) – We don’t really use it a lot anymore. These days we just say “Hi” or “Bye”, but in the past, people in Israel used those words to say “Hello” and “Good-Bye”. We still use it sometimes, so you’re welcome to say it, especially as a hello-greeting. “Shalom” also means “peace”. If you’re speaking to an Arab, you can say: “Ahlan” or “Marchaban” as a greeting.

Ma Kor-eh? (מה קורה) – This phrase usually comes right after the “Hi” and is actually a part of the greeting. “Ma kor-eh?” actually means “What’s up?” or more precisely, “What’s going on (with you)?” When people say “Hi, ma kor-eh?” it doesn’t necessarily mean that they want to really know how are you feeling. It’s just a way to say “Hello”. But sometimes people really do ask you “Ma kor-eh?” and want to hear an answer. If you want to ask “How are you doing/ feeling?” you can also ask “Ma shlom-cha?” (more formal. When you talk to a female you need to say “Ma Slom-ech?”) or “Ma nish-ma?” And yes, if you wondered, “Ma” means “What”, just so you know… In Arabic, you can ask: “Kayf halik?”

Tov (טוב) – You can use this word to say that you’re feeling good or to say “OK”. “Tov” literally means “Good”, but you can also use if to let someone know that you got what they asked you to do and are going to do it. Add an understanding nod.

Bo-ker Tov (בוקר טוב) – “Bo-ker tov” means “Good morning” and is a very common greeting. In Arabic it’s “Sabach al-chayr”.

Lie-la Tov (לילה טוב) – “Lie-la tov” means “Good night” and is a common saying, too, especially when you’re leaving after meeting with someone in the evening. If you want to say “Good evening” you need to say “E-rev tov”. In Arabic “good evening” is “Masaa’ al-chayr”.

To-da (תודה) – “To-da” means “Thank you”. You can say “Toda” when someone helps you with directions, when you get your order in a restaurant, when you get off a cab or any other time. It’s always nice to hear! If you really want to show your gratitude, you can say “To-da Ra-ba!” which means “Thank you very much!” In Arabic, you can say: “shukran”. 

Be-va-ka-sha (בבקשה) – “Be-va-ka-sha” means “please”. You won’t hear it a lot in Israel, because people here usually don’t ask for things, but who knows… maybe you’ll need it. Waiters usually say it when they bring food to your table, meaning “Here you go…”

Saying “Yes” or “No” – “Yes” is “ken” and “no” is “lo”. “Lo” also means “not”, so if you’re not feeling good, for instance, you can reply to “Ma kor-eh?” with “lo tov”.

Saying your name – If you want to intoduce yourself, you can just say “Ani (your name)”. “Ani” means “I” and this is a very common way of introducing oneself. If you want to say it more officially, you can say: “Ko-rhim li (your name)”. “Ko-rhim” (קוראים) means “is called” and “li” means “for me” and together they mean “my name is…” In Arabic you can say: “Ismi (your name)”. When you say your name, people will usually say theirs, too, but if for some reason they don’t say their names, you can ask them: “Eich ko-rhim lecha?” (when you speak to a male) or “Eich ko-rhim lach?” (when you speak to a female). “Eich” (איך) means “How”, “Lecha/ Lach” (לך) means “for you” and all the sentence together means “How are you called?”

“Name” in Hebrew is “Shem” (שם).

Where are you from? If you want to say where you are from, you can just say: “Ani mi (your state or city)”. “Ani” means “I”, “mi” means “from” (sometimes people might say “meh” instead of “mi”) and together they mean “I’m from…”

Here are a few names of countries in Hebrew. Maybe you’ll find your place here:

Germany/ Deutschland = Ger-man-ya (גרמניה).

Poland = Pol-in (פולין).

Britain/ England = Brit-an-ya (בריטניה) / An-Glee-ya (אנגליה).

Russia = Roo-si-ya (רוסיה).

Nederland = Holland (הולנד).

France = Tzar-fat (צרפת).

Italy = Ital-ya (איטליה).

USA = Artz-ot A-brit (ארצות הברית).

And what if you can’t understand what they’re saying? Say “Ani lo me-vin” (if you’re male) or “Ani lo me-vina” (if you’re female). That means “I don’t understand”.

*When I write “ch” it’s supposed to represent the Hebrew letter “ח” or “כ”. It’s a sound coming from within the throat. To hear it, you can enter this site, which I found very useful.


That’s all for now. If you really want to know how to say something else, you’re welcome to ask in the comments! I might add a few more posts about Hebrew in the future (more travel-related). Meanwhile, have fun learning!

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Lior (: