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Thursday, September 13, 2018

Israel: Where everybody knows your name (sort of)

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There's good news and bad news when it comes to names if you're making aliyah.

The first and very best news of all -- Because Hebrew is a phonetic language, Israelis are utterly awesome at pronouncing obscure last names.  Take mine, for example: MacLeod.

In English, we've gotten every possible pronunciation, from "Mak-Lewd" to "Mick-Clod" and everything in between.  It's actually MA-CLOUD.  That's it.  Very simple, actually.  Some Canadians get it, albeit tentatively, but usually only those of Scottish

Thursday, September 6, 2018

You speak Hebrew: now what? Top 5 tips to keep on learning!

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Full disclosure: my kids laugh if I say the words “I’m bilingual” out loud.  And with good reason.

I’ll be the first to admit that Hebrew is not, and never will be, my first or best language.  I probably won’t ever be as good as they are (even if my vocabulary is technically better than theirs, in terms of sheer number of roots and words I know).

It’s true that I have an accent, and that’s never going away.  I can’t help feeling insulted when people hearing my accent, though they’re trying to be helpful, switch into their terrible English.  What, my terrible Hebrew isn’t good enough for you?

It’s true that I will probably never be comfortable with a fast blast of Hebrew shouted at me over the phone or from across the room.  Stand in front of me, let me see your lips move, let me see your body language.

But still.

What has most made me realize I actually have become bilingual is that

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Three things that are better in Israel since we came

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A few months ago I was interviewing longtime olim and they all talked about the different ways that Israel was different since they came 20, 30, or even 40 years ago.  Which is nice, to think that the general trend is onward and upward, but not always so encouraging for those of us who are coming now (for example, hearing that you don’t have to wait a year to get a phone line when we’re already used to it being practically instant back wherever we came from!).

But things aren’t just changing in the long term.  We’ve only been here for 5 years (Five?!  How did that happen??!?) and already there are things that I’m noticing that have changed in little ways, making life better and better still…

Here are 3 of my favourites.  If you’re here in Israel already, I’d love to hear yours in the Comments!

1) Fruit

Actually, I didn’t think the fruit situation here COULD get much better.  Except for the fact that a) fruit here is so seasonal, and b) we sometimes like frozen fruit for baking and smoothies.  In Toronto, we used to just keep a tub of blueberries, some strawberries, mangos, whatever, in the freezer to toss into things.  Here, we couldn’t really do that, creating the irony of a bounty of strawberries davka (exactly) during the chilly winter season when you really don’t feel like an icy smoothie.  Where were the strawberries during the summer when I desperately wanted them? I wondered.

And now, guess what?  FROZEN fruit has come along to solve some of our fruit problems including strawberries, blueberries (impossible to get fresh where we live), and more. 

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There are even these smoothie-oriented mixes, though they all have “weird” stuff in them like

Thursday, July 26, 2018

What’s cheaper??? Three things you’ll love paying less for in Israel

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We all love to kvetch.  Or maybe I’m just speaking for myself.  I definitely love to kvetch!  But sometimes, it’s worth stepping back and looking around at how much is truly wonderful about this unbelievable place we live.

Here are three that I’m really enjoying this week:

1. Public Transportation

This is my number one.  In fact, this was what caught my eye on Facebook today.  Someone was kvetching about the high cost of buying and renting a car—and they were right.

True, cars are expensive, but public transit is almost laughably cheap.   It’s even cheaper than when we arrived in 2013.  In an era when nothing goes down in price, fares were actually LOWERED around most of the country a couple of years ago!

Here’s what I’m talking about:

I took the kiddies to Jerusalem two days ago.  The three of us went from north of Haifa to Jerusalem and back, taking local buses in both cities, inter-city buses, and trains.  The train was an hour, a one-hour bus ride, then several local trips within Jerusalem.  Then, five hours later, an inter-city bus ride back to Haifa and one local trip to get home.

Total cost?  ₪60 per person. That’s under $20 (US).

Oh, and we could have traveled for another 12+ hours on the same fare, had we been so inclined, because it’s good for 24 hours from purchase.

Where, outside of Israel, can you get around cheaper than that?

(NOTE:  This isn’t what trains look like in Israel nowadays!  This is an authentic 1970s-era train on display in the Railway Museum here in Haifa.  Photo © Deror Avi via Wikimedia)

Two years ago, we were in Ottawa and I wanted to leave my family there and get back to Toronto by bus.  It’s a five-hour train ride, so farther

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Weird, wacky, wonderful (Hebrew) words: Time (זְמַן) after Time (פַּעַם) and more…

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I figured it was time for a new post!  I know, I haven't posted anything in so long, and now this is like 3 in a 2-week period.  Blogging is like that sometimes.

And speaking of TIME... this post is all about time.  Specifically, the words we use to talk about it in Hebrew.

We use words for time a lot, which makes them extremely useful.
We say things to each other like:

  • "What time is the party?"
  • "How much time do you have?"
  • "How many times have you eaten blue cheese?"
  • "I sometimes think I'll try it someday."

In English, all four of those are the same word: time.
Not so in Hebrew.

  • What time is the party? / be’eyzo sha’ah hamesiba / באיזו שעה המסיבה
  • How much time do you have? / kama zman yesh lach / כמה זמן יש לך
  • How many times have you eaten blue cheese? / kama pe’amim achalt gevina kechula / כמה פעמים אכלת גבינה כחולה
  • I sometimes think I’ll try it someday. / leefameem ani choshevet she-anaseh yom echad / לפעמים אני חושבת שאנסה יום אחד

What are the time words I’ve used here?

  • Sha’ah / שעה – usually, hour
  • Pa’am / פעם – usually, time as in “how many times” (think of it as “occurrence”)
  • Zman / זמן – usually, time as in the abstract noun, like “we don’t have much time.”

For the fourth sentence, with sometimes, you're going to need a

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Weird, wacky, wonderful (Hebrew) words: אֶפְשָׁר / Possible (efshar)

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You've been reading these posts for a while.  How about I reward you with a gift?

It's a single word that works as a magic key, opening doors here like no other word can do -- including "please" (בבקשה), which really doesn't go a long way at all in Israel.

Actually, I’ve come to believe that saying please is actually a cue for whoever is supposed to be helping you--in restaurants, government offices, or wherever--to ignore you for a certain period of time.  Like counting to 10 when you're angry.  At least, they kind of stare at me cluelessly when I do it.  I’m not kidding.  It will only slow you down here.  Try it!

So what's the word?
Well, it's a little word that makes everything POSSIBLE...

Because it means "possible"!
And the word is... אפשר / efshar.

(And okay, since I’m not the grammar maven that you might be—technically it means something a lot more like “possibly,” but for the rest of this post, you and I are going to agree to overlook  grammar and technicalities almost entirely… if you want a more linguistically inclined site, check out Balashon – currently on hiatus but nonetheless packed with great info!  Also a terrific pun: balash means detective, lashon means language.)

Now, in English, the word “possible” isn’t used nearly as often in Hebrew. Here, you can use this little word instead of “please” in a huge variety of situations.

For example, in a restaurant:

  • Efshar ketchup? / Literally, “possibly ketchup?” but it means

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Two countries, two passport offices: Israeli bureaucracy in 2018

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Let's play a game: see if you can guess which country is which!  Two countries, two passport offices.  One of these experiences took place in Canada; the other in Israel.  Let’s let them go head to head.

PASSPORT EXPERIENCE #1:

Walk into passport office, get in line.  Wait in line an hour, reach wicket.  Lady inspects documents: birth certificate, passport application, passport photos, signatures, guarantor form and signatures, old passport, miscellaneous other ID.  "Great," she says, "Here's your number.  You can go get in line in the other room."  Half an hour in line in the real passport room waiting for the number to be called, go up, hand in documents, pay fee, leave.  In and out in under two hours!

PASSPORT EXPERIENCE #2:

Walk into passport office five minutes early for appointment made online.  Enter info into computer at entrance, receive a number.  Sit down for 2 minutes until number is called.  Go up to wicket, hand over old passport and ID.  "Great," she says, "Here's the price."  Tell her I already paid online.  "Oh, right, no problem.  Here's your receipt."  In and out in under ten minutes!

Now... in which country did I have which experience?

You probably already guessed, but

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