Archive for 'Cultural Awareness'

When in Israel, eat like an Israeli

Posted on 18. Feb, 2014 by in Cultural Awareness, Exploring Israel, Food, Travel

When it comes to food, Israelis are spoiled. They are accustomed to strong flavors and fresh ingredients. How spoiled are they? Well, McDonald’s was forced to change their burger recipe (and create a kosher Big Mac) to be accepted by the Israeli palate. Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts didn’t quite make it….

In Israel, as in many other Middle Eastern countries, “street food” is a kind of fast food that is sometimes literally eaten while standing in the street, while in some cases there are places to sit down. The following are some foods that are usually eaten in this way: But what I want to talk about here is the different types of street food that you should try. Most of them can be found pretty much anywhere in Israel. But if you want to get the best foods, ask the locals for their favorites.

סביח Sabich: This is an Iraqi-Jewish breakfast of fried eggplant, overnight cooked egg, tahini and pickled mango sauce (called amba) – usually eaten on Shabbat. The street version includes all the above stuffed into pita bread. If you’re really hungry, you can also ask to add in some chopped vegetable salad, cooked potatoes or sliced onions and hot sauce.

ה”סנדויץ’ התוניסאי” Tunisian sandwich: A large fried bun (yes, fried) with hard-boiled egg, tuna, potatoes, olives, pickled lemon and harrisa. Be warned, though, that it can be quite spicy for those who can’t handle spicy foods. The Tunisian sandwich is a bit harder to find at your typical street food stand.

Jerusalem bagels, bagels are not always the the round, boiled and baked breads. These ones are long and oblong-shaped, made from bread dough, covered in za’atar or sesame seeds, and are soft, chewy and sweet.

בורקס Burekas: Large pastries made of phyllo filled with either cheese, potatoes, spinach or roasted eggplant. You may ask for it sliced into smaller slices. it can also be served with an overnight cooked egg, pickles and even tahini.

שווארמה Shawarma: Similar to the Greek gyro, the Israeli version of Shawarma uses turkey layered with lamb fat (some places serve lamb meat, but since the Israeli lamb has a stronger flavor and aroma, some people will eat the turkey version instead). It is served in a pita to which you can add hummus, tahini sauce, chopped vegetable salad, cabbage salad, pickles, french fries – pretty much what you find pleasing to the palate.

פלאפל Falafel: This is the ultimate fast food or street food you can find in Israel. There are many places you can find serving falafel so your best bet would be asking the locals where to find the closest best place. Make sure you eat it is when it’s fried during the last few minutes or just in front of you and served hot and fresh.

מלבי Malabi: If you want something sweet, this creamy pudding is prepared with milk (or cream) and cornstarch. It is sold as a street food from carts or stalls, in disposable cups with thick sweet syrup and various toppings such as chopped pistachios or coconut. It’s so popular that supermarkets sell it in plastic packages, and restaurants serving richer and more sophisticated versions using various toppings and garnishes such as berries and fruit.


Video courtesy of: goisraelofficial – The official YouTube channel of the Israel Ministry of Tourism.

Hebrew vs. Yiddish: What’s the Difference?

Posted on 30. Dec, 2013 by in Cultural Awareness, Judaism, Yiddish

כל בני האדם נולדו בני חורין ושווים בערכם ובזכויותיהם. כולם חוננו בתבונה ובמצפון, לפיכך חובה עליהם לנהוג איש ברעהו ברוח של אחווה.

יעדער מענטש װערט געבױרן פֿרײַ און גלײַך אין כּבֿוד און רעכט. יעדער װערט באַשאָנקן מיט פֿאַרשטאַנד און געװיסן; יעדער זאָל זיך פֿירן מיט אַ צװײטן אין אַ געמיט פֿון ברודערשאַפֿט.

Looking at the two paragraphs above, what do you see? Two paragraphs of Hebrew writing, but the second paragraph is not actually Hebrew. It’s actually Yiddish. What’s the difference between the two langauges? Why is Yiddish written with the Hebrew alphabet?

Yiddish Origins

From a linguistic point of view, Yiddish is a mix of languages. It first started as Biblical Hebrew. And after the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, speaking Biblical Hebrew was considered too holy for daily use. Around the 11th century, Ashkenazi Jews living in or around the areas now known as Germany and Poland started speaking a language that was a mix of Biblical Hebrew, Aramaic, German and Polish called לשון־אַשכּנז (loshn-ashknez = “language of Ashkenaz”) and טײַטש (taytsh, the name for the German spoken in the region of origin). The term ייִדיש (Yiddish) did not become the name of the language until the 18th century. In the late 19th and early 20th century the language was more commonly called “Jewish”, but now “Yiddish” is again in use.

What are the differences?

Due to their Biblical Hebrew roots there are many similarities betwen the two languages. The most obvious is the fact that they use the same written letters. One difference is the niqqud (vowels) used in Hebrew are omitted for the most part in Yiddish. The consonants ע (ayin) and א (aleph) as well as variations of י (yud) to represent different vowel sounds.

Because Yiddish is a mix of various languages, it takes on the grammar rules of the other languages it picked up – making the grammar rules a little bit difficult to pin down. For example, there are two basic ways to form a plural in Hebrew—by adding ים (im) or ות (ot) to the end of the word. In Yiddish, however, there are several ways to form a plural depending on the source of the word (is it of German origin? Polish? Aramaic?). For example, the plural of “chaver,” (friend) a Hebrew word, would be “chaverim” in Yiddish. However, the plural of “bubbe” (grandmother) would be “bubbles” in Yiddish.

Yiddish is a very interesting language. And for all our readers who are Yiddish speakers, גוט טאָג פריינט. באַגריסונג צו דעם בלאָג!


Listen…do you want to know a secret?

Posted on 28. Dec, 2013 by in Conversation, Cultural Awareness, Grammar, Learning Hebrew, Phrases, Real World, Vocabulary


Can you keep a secret? You will not believe what I heard. Well, it’s really no secret, but if you did have one, how would you express that? Let’s start with a rumor that has been going around and you want to know if it’s true…


שְׁמוּעוֹת אוֹמְרוֹת שְׁאתה לומד עברית – Rumor has it that you’re learning Hebrew
    שְׁמוּעָה – rumor (literally “rumors”)
    אוֹמְרוֹת – says
    שְׁ – that (used as a conjunction)

Yes, it’s true, you are learning Hebrew. So …

כן, אני לומד עברית, אַל תְּסַפֵּר לְאַף אֶחָד.Yes, I’m learning Hebrew, don’t tell anyone.
    אַל – Don’t; at, to
    תְּסַפֵּר – tell (masculine form from the verb לְסַפֵּר)
    תְּסַפֵּרִי – tell (feminine form from the verb לְסַפֵּר)
    לְאַף אֶחָד – no one

זֶה לְגַמְרֵי בֵּינִי לְבֵינְךָ – This is strictly between you and me.
    לְגַמְרֵי – completely, totally
    בֵּינִי – between ; amongst
    בֵּינִי לְבֵינְךָ – between you and me (you may also hear בֵּינֵינוּ)

Other ways to talk about rumors and secrets

אַתָּה לְעוֹלָם לוֹא תַּאֲמִין מַה… – You’ll never believe what…
אַתְּ לְעוֹלָם לוֹא תַּאֲמִינִי מַה… – You’ll never believe what…

שָׁמַעְתָּ על…? – Did you hear about…?
שָׁמַעְתְּ על…? – Did you hear about…?

צִיפּוֹר קְטַנָּה לָחֲשָׁה לִי שֽׁ… – A little bird told me that….

Maybe a rumor is not true?

מַה אַתָּה אוֹמֵר! – I don’t believe it!
אֲנִי לֹא מַאֲמִין! – I don’t believe it!

There’s a shorter way to say you don’t believe what is being told to you:
בְּחַיֶּיךָ – You don’t say! / I don’t believe it! (to a male)
בְּחַיַּיִךְ – You don’t say! / I don’t believe it! (to a female)

But if you still swear it’s true:
בְּחַיַיִ – I swear to you!, on my life!


Real World Hebrew: Health Risks of Smoking

Posted on 19. Nov, 2013 by in Conversation, Cultural Awareness, Learning Hebrew, Real World, Trends, Vocabulary

In this article, we’ll be looking at some warning labels about health issues, specifically about smoking. The one word you see here is the big red one – אַזהָרָה- Warning!


עשן הסיגריות פוגע בבריאות ילדיך וכל הסובבים אורחן
Cigarette smoke harms your child’s health and all those around.

עָשָׁן- smoke
סִיגַרִיָה- cigarette
פּוֹגֵעַ- offensive, harmful, injurious
בְּרִיאוּת- health
יֶלֶד- child
כל- each/every
הסובבים- surrounding
אוֹרְחָן – guest, visitor


הסיגריות פוגעות בכושר הגופני שלך
Cigarettes harm your physical health

בְּכוֹשֶׁר- ability, fitness, capability
גוּפָנִי- physical
שלך- your


העישון גורם להזדקנות מוקדמת של עור הפנים
Smoking causes premature aging of the skin

עִשּׁוּן- smoking
גוֹרֵם- causes
להזדקנות מוקדמת- premature aging
    להזדקנות- aging
    מוקדמת- early

שֶׁל- of
עוֹר- skin
פְּנִים- inside, interior; inward


Let’s see how well you can understand this one. Put your translation in the comment box below.

כֹּל- all, any, every
הִכְנִיס- to insert, to put in; to introduce
חומרים מסרטנים- carcinogens
    חומרים- materials
    מסרטנים- carcinogenic
    סִרְטֵן- to cause cancer, to be carcinogenic

לגופך- your body
    גופ- body
    ל- to, for
    ך- your

Exploring Israel: The Temple Mount

Posted on 06. Nov, 2013 by in Cultural Awareness, Exploring Israel, Judaism, Torah, tourism


The Temple Mount, (הַר הַבַּיִת‎) is one of the most important religious sites in the Old City of Jerusalem for thousands of years. At least four religions are known to have used the Temple Mount: Judaism, Christianity, Roman religion, and Islam. the first temple was built by Solomon in 957 BCE and destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BCE. The second was constructed under the auspices of Zerubbabel in 516 BCE and destroyed by the Roman Empire in 70 CE

Temple_mountJudaism regards the Temple Mount as the place where God chose the Divine Presence to rest (Isa 8:18). According to the Bible the site should function as the center of all national life—a governmental, judicial and, of course, religious center. During the Second Temple Period it functioned also as an economical center. The location is the holiest site in Judaism and is the place Jews turn towards during prayer. Due to its extreme sanctity, many Jews will not walk on the Mount itself, to avoid unintentionally entering the area where the Holy of Holies stood.

Excavations at the Temple Mount

Due to the extreme political sensitivity of the site, no real archaeological excavations have even been conducted on the Temple Mount itself. Aside from visual observation of surface features, most other archaeological knowledge of the site comes from a 19th century survey. In the late 1960's Israeli archeologists began a series of excavations near the site at the southern wall that uncovered finds from the Second Temple period through Roman, Umayyad and Crusader times. Over the period 1970–88, a number of tunnels were excavated in the vicinity, including one that passed to the west of the Mount and became known as the Western Wall Tunnel, which was opened to the public in 1996.

Entry to the site

Entrance_signJewish connection and veneration to the site arguably stems from the fact that it contains the Holy of Holies of the Temple, the Most Holy Place in Judaism. Jewish tradition names it as the location for a number of important events which occurred in the Bible, including the Binding of Isaac, Jacob’s dream, and the prayer of Isaac and Rebekah. Similarly, when the Bible recounts that King David purchased a threshing floor owned by Araunah the Jebusite, tradition locates it as being on this mount.

During Temple times, entry to the Mount was limited by a complex set of purity laws. After the destruction of the Temple there was discussion as to whether the site still maintained its holiness or not. Jewish codifiers accepted the thought that the holiness of the Temple sanctified the site for eternity and consequently the restrictions on entry to the site are still currently in force.

In August 1967 the Chief Rabbis of Israel, Isser Yehuda Unterman and Yitzhak Nissim, together with other leading rabbis, asserted that “For generations we have warned against and refrained from entering any part of the Temple Mount.” Rabbinical consensus held that it is forbidden for Jews to enter any part of the Temple Mount, and in January 2005 a declaration was signed confirming the 1967 decision.