Learn Basic Hebrew
I realised the importance of having to learn basic Hebrew when I was fourteen years old. I travelled to Israel with my family for the first time as a teenager. The man behind the booth said, "boy" at passport control. I said I'm a "girl, not a boy". He kept saying "boy" until he realised I had no idea what he was saying! Eventually, he said, "come here". I was later told that he was saying "bo-i", which means "come here" in the feminine form. At that point, I realised that I did not learn basic Hebrew when I was learning Hebrew in primary school.
Learning basic common Hebrew phrases
Learning basic common Hebrew phrases before you travel to Israel is crucial! Even simple vocabulary, such as common words and numbers, could help you navigate the country. Therefore, it is crucial that you learn basic Hebrew before you land. Therefore, I suggest you either buy an online Hebrew learning program such as Easy Learn Hebrew or enrol in a face-to-face program to help you learn simple Hebrew.
Imagine you go to Israel and need to find a bathroom urgently, or you are hungry and want to order food; these are two very common scenarios. If you have not had the opportunity to simple Hebrew, navigating what I consider to be 'the basics' of everyday life will be challenging. Or if you become ill and need to see a doctor, it would be helpful to know some of the names of body parts in Hebrew. In addition, it would help to communicate with the doctor what the issue is.
Knowledge of Hebrew grammar would be helpful but certainly not essential. However, I could pick it up quickly once I started communicating with Israelis. Indeed, they were very quick to correct me! Although knowing the Hebrew alphabet and how to read basic Hebrew would undoubtedly be helpful when you get there.
When I lived in Israel when I was twenty-four years old, I found that learning the language gave me a deeper understanding of the Israeli culture and mentality. Indeed, taking the opportunity to learn the basics of the Hebrew language will definitely give you an insight into Israeli culture.
For example, I spent three months in a basic training course in the Israeli army (designed for foreigners) and learned something very interesting. I discovered that the everyday language spoken in Israel is directly influenced by the language spoken in the IDF (Israel Defence Force). It stands to reason because it is compulsory for every single Israeli, regardless of their ability, at the age of eighteen to enlist in the IDF. The Israeli men must enlist for three years, and the Israeli women for two years.
In the Israeli army, much of the language used is the imperative (command)In Hebrew this is translated as tzivui. A few examples include sit, stand, enter, run, and so on. I noticed that all the commanders in the program that I joined used the command verbs for everything. I never heard them use the word 'please' in my three months there.
Fast forward to the end of the course; I started attending university in Jerusalem and met many Israelis I spoke to in Hebrew. All my conversations with them did not include the word 'please'; they mostly used the imperative/command verbs. It was fascinating how the army's language filtered down into regular civilian life.
/Biblical Hebrew language
My biblical Hebrew language background became valuable to me when I lived in Israel; I realised how similar modern Hebrew is to biblical Hebrew, as both use the same endings for the gendered plural nouns. Indeed, both modern and biblical Hebrew use sound ot at the end of a word for the plural of feminine nouns and the use of im at the end of a word for the plural of masculine nouns. Additionally, Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, the founder of modern Hebrew, classified and planned Modern Hebrew using 8,000 words found in the Jewish bible and 20,000 words from rabbinical writings, showing how modern and biblical Hebrew are closely intertwined.
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