Hebrew 101, or How to Survive Hanging Out with Crazy Israelis

The next time you find yourself and/or your time appropriated by crazy Israeli friends, here are a few handy tips to keep in mind.  Hanging out with Israelis is NOT for the faint of heart.  There is a whole host of things that could go wrong during these types of situations.  You could suddenly find yourself acting like you just left the Israeli Army (and we all know that Israelis fresh out of the army are especially crazy!).  You could find yourself totally ignoring common American customs and niceties, like standing in line to order drinks at the bar.  Imagine the poor barkeep as you and the crazy Israelis you’ve taken up with converge en masse, without any form or courtesy.  Sad.  You may even find yourself spouting Hebrew swear words without any guidance on proper usage!  I urge you, proceed with caution.  Here are a few handy tips that will ensure a (relatively) painless experience.

  • Tip #1: Confusion

Sufficiently confused Israelis. Notice the look of wonder and consternation as water is squeezed from outer wear!

If you’ve ever seen the movie Gremlins, you can appreciate the transformational power of water. Much like the cute little Mogwai, when exposed to water, turn into aggressive little meanies, so do crazy Israelis, in reverse fasion, become more complacent and easy to manage when confronted with a classic Portland rainfall.  A little extra waterspray from Multnomah Falls doesn’t hurt either.   It clearly confuses them, how so much water can fall out of the sky.  Mind you, they are primarily desert dwellers, so this confusion is understandable, and clearly to your advantage.


  • Tip #2: Mesmerism
Amazingly enough, it took very little effort on my part to divert their attentions.  Crazy, I know.

Amazingly enough, it took very little effort on my part to create this photo opportunity. Crazy, I know. They might still be there waiting for service if I hadn't talked them down.

 There are all sorts of strange and wonderful things around that will mesmerize Israelis on the prowl.  Thinking as they do that Americans are the crazy ones, they will often see things they find unusual.  Encourage them to investigate.  The photo opportunities afforded to you by their antics will amaze even the most hardened critic.  Remember to always keep your camera handy!  If they realize that you are attempting to document their craziness, they may attack.  Stay calm, and inquire how to say the thing they were mesmerized by in Hebrew.  If you’re lucky, they will stop their advance and pause to discuss amongst themselves how to say such a thing in English.  Which leads me to my third and final tip…


  • Tip #3: Diversion
All the Hebrew I know

All the Hebrew I know

In extreme cases, a very simple and effective tactic to maintain control in the presense of Israelis is linguistic diversion.  Be sure to indicate that your knowledge of Hebrew is minimal at best from the outset, whether or not that may be the case!   Simply point to some nearby object, and say “Hey, how do you say <object> in Hebrew?”  They should commence to discuss between themselves how to answer.  If you’re quite lucky, you may happen upon a term that doesn’t translate directly, which should occupy them for an extended amount of time.  (One especially confounding term for them is ‘volcano’.)  Use this only as a last resort!   While this approach is very simple, there are some extremely dangerous repurcussions if used incorrectly or too often.  For instance, if your Israeli friends start to think that you’ve developed enough of a vocabulary, they may start to quiz you.  Should this occur, stay very calm, and screw up as best as you can.  This should hopefully throw them off, and they will back down.  However if this does not work, your last option is this:  Throw up your hands, exclaim “yalayala!” or “yala balagan!”.  Be prepared to run away.  Also be prepared for a night of partying.  It could go either way.

I wish you all the luck with your crazy Israeli friends.

Z’hirut, and Peace.


  1. Sharon says:

    I heard a rumor about a fearless voyage to Crater lake…..Is it true? Any tips how to stop them…..

  2. Morgan says:

    Apparently I heard that Crater Lake managed to rebuff them quite well the first time, but those Israelis…they’re freakin persistent when they get a crazy idea in their heads!