Making aliyah to Israel? Here’s some street-smart Hebrew to get you started.

4 min read
Yonatan Engler
Yonatan Engler

Are you making aliyah and moving to Israel? Welcome!

Now, allow us to teach you some modern-day, street-smart Hebrew you (probably) won’t learn in the government ulpan (Hebrew school).

1. Take advantage of your benefits.

If you made aliyah, you’re entitled to a wide range of benefits, including tax breaks, housing stipends, ulpan (Hebrew school), and university scholarships.

Keywords: סַל קְלִיטָה

Translation: absorption basket

Transliteration: sahl klee-tah

Insider’s Tip: The word קְלִיטָה comes from the word לִקְלוֹט (leek-loht – literally meaning “to absorb”). Use it as slang to ask someone if they understand something, as in: ?אַתָּה קוֹלֵט (ah-tah koh-let)

2. Know your rights.

Being a citizen of a country means you have rights, and surely Israel’s differ from your home country. Should you have any questions about your rights in Israel, check out the website Kol Zchut (available in Hebrew and English).

Keywords: זְכוּיוֹת, כֹּל-זְכוּת

Translation: rights, every right

Transliteration: z’choo-yoht, kohl z’choot

3. Up, up, and away!

The Hebrew language has a term (and a little snobby one at that) specifically for moving to and leaving Israel, as opposed to just coming for a visit.

To move to Israel is to “go up” to Israel (לַעֲלוֹת לָאָרֶץ – literally “to ascend to the country”), as if you’re ascending to a holy land. And to leave Israel is to “go down” from Israel (לָרֶדֶת מֵהָאָרֶץ – literally “to descend from the country”), as if you’re descending to less-holy or non-holy lands. (Funny, but true.)

Keywords: לַעֲלוֹת, לָרֶדֶת

Translation: to ascend, to descend

Transliteration: lah-ah-loht, lah-red-et

Insider’s Tip: The word עֲלִיָּה (ah-lee-yah – ascent) shares the same root as לַעֲלוֹת, while the word יְרִידָה (yeh-ree-dah – descent) shares the same root as לָרֶדֶת.

4. The one and only

You may have noticed Israeli society thinks highly of itself, but pay extra attention to how it shows itself in the Hebrew language: Locals typically refer to Israel as “the country,” rather than יִשְׂרָאֵל (yees-rah-el).

Keywords: הָאָרֶץ

Translation: Israel, literally “the country”

Transliteration: hah-ar-etz

5. Your ID, please.

First things first: Memorize the number of your תְּעוּדַת זֶהוּת (teh-oo-daht zeh-hoot – identification card).

Keywords: לְשַׁנֵן

Translation: to memorize

Transliteration: leh-shah-nen

6. A family affair

Even though it’s true that everyone is “family” in Israel, try finding an Israel family to help you integrate into the local culture if you don’t already have one.

Keywords: לְהִקָלֵט, תַרְבּוּת

Translation: to integrate, culture

Transliteration: leh-hee-kah-let, tar-boot

Insider’s Tip: The words לְהִקָלֵט and לִקְלוֹט / קְלִיטָה (to absorb / absorption) come from the same root: ק-ל-ט

7. You’ve got mail!

Since products in Israel aren’t always the cheapest, check out our article about online shopping in Israel for more info.

Keywords: דֹּואַר

Translation: mail / post office

Transliteration: doh-ar

8. Ministry of … Faces?

A common mispronunciation internationals say is מִשְׂרַד הַפָּנִים (mees-rahd hah-pah-neem – literally “the face office”) instead of מִשְׂרַד הַפְּנִים (mees-rahd hah-p’neem – Ministry of the Interior). Not that we need to make it more of a headache than it already is…

Keywords: נָפוֹץ, כְּאֵב רֹאשׁ

Translation: common, headache

Transliteration: nah-fotz, keh-ev rohsh

9. ‘Ticket to Ride’

If you hold a valid driver’s license from your home country, you’re eligible for an Israeli license by simply passing a driving test.

Keywords: רִשְׁיוֹן נְהִיגָה

Translation: driver’s license

Transliteration: reesh-eye-ohn neh-hee-gah

10. Drafting to the army?

For those of you making aliyah to serve in the Israeli Defense Forces, we salute you.

Keywords: צָבָא, לְהַצְדִיעַ

Translation: army/military, to salute

Transliteration: tzah-vah, leh-hahtz-dee-yah

11. Lone soldiers are never alone in Israel.

Lone soldier status is granted to those serving in the military who live outside of their parent’s home, whether in Israel or abroad.

Keywords: חַיָּל בּוֹדֵד, חַיֶּלֶת בּוֹדֵדָה

Translation: lone soldier

Transliteration: chai-yahl boh-ded (m), chai-yeh-let boh-deh-dah (f)

Insider’s Tip: The word בּוֹדֵד actually means “lonely” – בּוֹדֵד for a male and בּוֹדֵדָה for a female.

12. Studying hard, or hardly studying?

After making aliyah, you’re entitled to a university scholarship up to a certain amount.

Keywords: מִלְגַּת לִימּוּדִים

Translation: scholarship

Transliteration: meel-gaht lee-moo-deem

13. Congratulations, you can now vote in Israel!

Exercise your right to vote in Israel! The next general elections are scheduled for 2023.

Keywords: לְהַצְבִּיעַ

Translation: to vote

Transliteration: leh-hahtz-bee-ah

Insider’s Tip: The noun for vote/voting is technically הַצבָּעָה, but most Israelis say קוֹל (kohl – literally meaning “voice”) instead.

14. Is there a doctor in the house?

]Not sure what’s worse: getting sick, or waiting in line to see the doctor.

Keywords: לַחְלוֹת, תְרוּפָה

Translation: to get sick, medicine

Transliteration: lach-loht, t’roo-fah

Insider’s Tip: The word for nurse and sister is the same in Hebrew – אָחוֹת (ah-choht).

15. The bubble that never bursts

For better or worse, Tel Aviv is the bubble of all bubbles. With that said, here are 40 little ways to be a Tel Avivian.

Keywords: בּוּעָת תֵּל אֲבִיב

Translation: Tel Aviv bubble

Transliteration: boo-aht tel ah-veev

Insider’s Tip: Tel Aviv is such a bubble, locals jokingly refer to it as its own state: מְדִינַת תֵּל אָבִיב (meh-dee-naht tel ah-veev – the State of Tel Aviv).

16. Tax season

In Israel, we pay property tax once every two months to the local municipality.

Keywords: אַרְנוֹנָה, עִירִיָּה

Translation: property tax, municipality

Transliteration: ar-noh-nah, eer-ee-yah

Insider’s Tip: The word עִירִיָּה comes from the word עִיר (eer – city) which in turn comes from the word עֵר (er – awake), because cities “never sleep.”

17. When in Israel, do as the Israelis do.

Rule number one: Everything is negotiable.

Keywords: לְהִתְמַקֵּחַ

Translation: to bargain/haggle

Transliteration: leh-heet-mah-keh-ahch

18. No Israeli will ever understand you.

Get used to locals asking you why you moved here, followed by the infamous question: ?מָה רַע בְּחוּ”ל (mah rah beh-chool – What’s so bad abroad?)

Keywords: חוּץ לָאָרֶץ

Translation: abroad/overseas

Transliteration: chootz lah-ar-etz

Insider’s Tip: Locals often say the abbreviated version of this term – חוּ”ל (chool). For more common Hebrew abbreviations, check out this article.


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