Finally going to Israel? You’ve probably thought of everything - bathing suits, shoes, unlimited pairs of underwear, and some extra bags for hikes and weekend escapes.
But did you think about what to say to the bus driver when he won’t open the back door for you to get off at your stop? Or how to get rid of the person hitting on you on your way to the office? No? We’ve got you covered.
Whether you’re working, volunteering, traveling, or just immersing yourself in Israeli culture, here are the 10 Hebrew phrases you should know before starting your Israel journey.
Check out all articles in our Guide to Working and Interning in Israel.
English to Hebrew Translations
Kama zeh oleh? כמה זה עולה? - How much does this cost?
If you plan to go to the shuk - or, well, anywhere else in Israel where you’ll be spending money - you will need to know how much things cost. Kama zeh oleh means “how much does this cost?”. If you do find yourself in the middle of the shuk’s one-of-a-kind chaos, you can just point or pick up the thing you’re referring to and ask Kama?, or “how much?”.
Eifo Ha’sheruteem? איפה השירותים? - Where’s the bathroom?
This is a phrase that, frankly, you should know in every language, just in case. When you need to go to the bathroom and can’t seem to find it on your own, ask the nearest Israeli “eifo ha’sheruteem” and they’ll point you in the right direction.
Nahag! !נהג - Driver
If you decide to take public transportation during your stay in Israel (which you should if you plan to fully immerse yourself in Israeli life), chances are that at one point or another the bus driver is going to either pass by your stop or forget to open the back door for you to get off. When this happens, just yell “nahag!”, or “driver”, to the front of the bus and you’ll be sure to get his attention. (If you have more to say, just ask the people around you for some assistance.)
Efshar mazgan bevakasha? אפשר מזגן בבקשה? - Can you turn on the AC please?
Israel is hot. Most of the year. If you walk into someone’s apartment or a coffee shop or your office space and the air conditioner isn’t on when it clearly should be, don’t be afraid to ask “efshar mazgan bevakasha?”. You’ll be helping everyone out.
Yesh tafrit be’anglit? יש תפריט באנגלית? - Is there an English menu?
Sometimes the waitstaff at a restaurant won’t fully pay attention to a foreigner’s non-Israeli accent in the middle of a busy day, and you’ll get landed with a Hebrew menu. Don’t panic, just kindly ask the waiter or waitress “yesh tafrit be’anglit”?
Efshar lekabel et ha-cheshbon bevakasha? אפשר לקבל את החשבון בבקשה? - Can I get the bill please?
Once you’re done with the meal you ordered with your English menu (that you asked for in Hebrew), make eye contact with the waiter and either say or mime from afar: “Efshar lekabel et ha-cheshbon bevakasha?”, or “Can I get the bill please?”. This one’s on you.
For you career nuts, below are some English to Hebrew translations and phrases that might help you out in the office:
Misrad, משרד - Office
Menahel, מנהל - Manager
Kol hakavod, כל הכבוד - Good job
Yom hofesh, יום חופש - Day’s leave/day off
Ani yavin otcha/otach eem tedaber/tedabri leat - I’ll understand if you speak slower
If you have a little Hebrew under your belt (and if you don’t yet, you will with Masa Israel’s ulpan classes!) but aren’t quite up to par with your Israeli coworkers yet, a good way to get them to re-explain what they’re saying to you and to practice your own Hebrew is to let them know: “ani yavin otcha(m)/otach(f) eem tedaber(m)/tedabree(f) leat”. They will be happy to accomodate and impressed that you’re asking them in Hebrew!
Ata/at yechol(a) lazor li be mashu? את/ה יכול לעזור במשהו? - Can you help me with something?
If you need help with something, don’t be afraid to ask! You’re here to learn and it’s up to you to get the most out of your experience. An easy way to get help, and maybe make a new friend at the same time, is to ask the person “ata(m)/at(f) yechol/a la’azor li be-mashu?”.
Ata(m) / At(f) yechol(a) lehasbir et ze shuv bevakasha? את/ה יכול/ה להסביר את זה שוב בבקשה? - Can you please explain this again?
Another good way to flaunt your Hebrew and learn more at your internship or job is to ask one of your co-workers “yesh efsharut lehasbir et ze shuv bevakasha?”, or “Can you please explain this again?”. Not much more to say about this, just that you’ll continue to impress them with your skills.
A key word here that you should remember for any sentence you say in order to be polite: bevakasha, or please. Probably should have mentioned that one before.
Rotze(m) / Rotza(f) latzet le-beerah? רוצה לצאת לבירה? - Want to go out for a beer?
Want to make a friend? Invite them out for a beer after work! They’ll be happy you asked and, because Israel has a very open social scene, you’ll most likely make some more new friends out of it too.
With this list of English to Hebrew translations, we’re sure you’re going to be making friends in no time (both in the office and out). Practice makes perfect, so get to work!
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Masa Israel Journey is the leader in immersive international experiences in Israel for young people ages 18-30. An initiative/project of The Jewish Agency for Israel and the Government of Israel, Masa Israel’s subsidized, individually tailored programs allow participants to immerse themselves in the community and embark on unique journeys that enrich their personal and professional growth.