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Israelispeak: The Quiz!

How well do you know your Hebrew phrases?

Shoshana Kordova
February 11, 2011
(Len Small/Tablet Magazine)
(Len Small/Tablet Magazine)

Israelispeak is the way Israelis and the Israeli media use Hebrew. Behind the literal meaning, there’s an additional web of suggestion, doublespeak, and cultural innuendo that too often gets lost in translation. Every Friday, we reveal what is really being said. To view all the entries in this series, click here.

Israelispeak is rolling to a close, and as promised, here’s your final exam. It’s multiple-choice—or as Israelis would say, an “American test” (mivhan Amerika’i). Good luck—behatzlaha!.

Select the right answer below each question, then submit to see your score.

1. You just had a great vacation somewhere that is very much not blanketed in snow, but you have a red-eye flight home and an important meeting early that morning. Oh, well, every Saturday has a motzei Shabbat. This means:

Every cloud has a silver lining.
Everything has its place.
All good things must come to an end.
A frown is just a smile upside down.

2. You’re rich and you think your fiancé might be cheating on you. Maybe it’s time to have him sign a hatzharat ne’emanut. You’re thiningk:

You might marry him anyway, but he had better sign a prenup.
You’ll tell him you want to give him power of attorney. If he agrees, it’s a sure sign he’s a scumbag.
If he officially adopts your dog, there’s no way he’ll ever leave you.
You want him to sign a declaration of loyalty. If he won’t do it, that proves he just wanted you for your money, right?

3. Wife to husband: “You know that really un-PC joke about three Moroccan Jews and a mink walking into a bar? Maybe you should keep it to yourself this time; we don’t want to release the shed ha’adati.” The wife is saying:

We don’t want to play the race card.
You know that joke always makes the parrot try to bust out of its cage.
We don’t want to make our hosts uncomfortable.
We don’t want those PETA types setting us on fire again.

4. You’re a civil servant and you aren’t earning as much as you’d like. That’s it, the time has come for a shvita. You are going to:

Sell out and join the corporate world.
Stage a sit-in.
Take a sabbatical.
Go on strike.

5. Your mom has been on your case about getting married. Maybe you’ll just tell her you’re planning to move to a hitnahlut in Israel. If you followed through on your threat, your place of residence would be:

a yeshiva.
a settlement.
a kibbutz.
some arty hole-in-the-wall where everyone just got back from India and is still kind of high.

6. So you’ve decided it’s never too early to get a leg up on next Hanukkah? Try making your own dreidel out of oferet yetzukaM. Your spinning top is made of:

olive wood.
leftover Christmas ornaments.
cast lead.

7. Get rid of those so-called friends who are just dragging you down, throw a party, and declare your atzmaut. You are now:


8. Have a New Year’s resolution that you still haven’t done anything about? Just tell yourself that what you really meant was the Jewish New Year, which gives you an automatic extension until aharei hahagim. You may continue procrastinating up to:

after Simhat Torah.
just before Shavuot.
Saint Patrick’s Day.

9. Ever wonder why the Knesset Website has a section for “family ties”? That’s because on some days it seems like everything in Israel is politi, which can sometimes be another way of saying:

reminiscent of ’80s TV.

10. The Zune media player was almost shot out of the water before arriving in Israel, just because it sounds sort of like “ziyun,” a word you may not want to use in polite company because its dual meaning is best captured by this phrase:

Is that a gun in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?
Yo momma’s so fat I had to take a train and two buses just to get on her good side.
The shinbone is a device for finding furniture in a dark room.
The early bird might get the worm, but it’s the second mouse who gets the cheese.

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Shoshana Kordova is an editor and translator at the English edition of Haaretz. She grew up in New Jersey and has lived in Israel since 2001.

Shoshana Kordova is an editor and translator at the English edition of Haaretz. She grew up in New Jersey and has been living in Israel since 2001.