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Israel’s Prime Ministers

May 12th, 2013 | Posted by rachael in Hebrew-English | Israeli culture - (Comments Off on Israel’s Prime Ministers)
512px-Benjamin_Netanyahu_portrait (1)

Israel has had 12 Prime Ministers (ראש ממשלה) so far as of April 2013.  Israel has a Parliamentary system of government, which means that terms of office are often shorter, or longer than the standard four years that exists in the United States.

David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister served over 13 years and Yigal Allon only 19 days.  Elections (בחירות) are called when the government falls, from a no-confidence vote (הצבעה אי אמון).   The same Prime Minister may be re-elected for a consecutive term, and a person can served non-consecutive terms in office. David Ben Gurion had two non consecutive terms as well as  Yitzchak Rabin, Shimon Peres  and  Benjamin Netanyahu.

Two Prime Ministers have died in office, Levi Eshkol and Yitzchak Rabin, who was assassinated (נרצח).  When the Prime Minister is unable to conduct his duties, the Acting Prime Minister takes over.  This happened when Ariel Sharon suffered a stroke and then a brain hemorrhage, Ehud Olmort took over and called new elections, which he won.

Golda Meir was the only woman so far to serve as Prime Minister, she served a long term of five years, the most notable event during her term was the Yom Kippur War (מלחמת יום כיפורים).

In 1977, after being in the opposition for 29 years, the Likud (ליכוד) with Menachem Begin as Prime Minister was elected. This was a big revolution because the Mapai and the Labor (עבודה)  party had ruled Israel.   Yitzchak Shamir was elected after Begin, which helped the minorities have a voice in the government.

Benjamin Netanyahu’s first term in office ended with a no-confidence vote about the Wye Plantation accords, but now in his second term, he has continued as Prime Minister, after a no-confidence vote  but with a different Knesset (כנסת) composition.

Benyamin Netanyahu

Israel as a young country has had it’s share of memorable Prime Ministers. Each puts a unique stamp on the country.  The goal (מטרה) of every Prime Minister is to make Israel a better place to live.


Vocabulary about Israel’s Prime Ministers

ראש ממשלה


הצבעה אי אמון


מלחמת יום כיפורים




Studying in an Israeli university

May 2nd, 2013 | Posted by rachael in Hebrew-English | Israeli culture - (Comments Off on Studying in an Israeli university)

Congratulations on making the decision to study at an Israeli University (אוניברסיטה). In Israel, you can study in many academic fields and be better prepared to enter into the Israeli job market. There are nine universities in Israel, the  Hebrew University and the Technion ranking in the top 100 in the world.

Entrance requirements to study in an Israeli university

The entrance requirements (דרישות) of Israeli universities are that you need to have a Matriculation certificate (Bagrut – בגרות)  from your high school, pass the  psychometric test (מבחן פסיכומטרי) and if your English level is not high enough,  pass the “Amir” English screening exam (מבחן  אמיר). Your Bagrut grades are very important, getting a good grade can determine whether you get into the university.

The psychometric tests mathematics, higher reasoning and English. If you have passed high school math, you will do well on the math section. The higher reasoning section, is a bit more difficult and you should do all the practice that you can. You will do well on the English section if you have passed 4 points high school English.

BA studies (תואר ראשון)

In Israel, as compared to the United States, most students finish their BA degree in three years. Some students also study for a B.ed that i,s a teaching credential, at the same time, studying for an extra year.

For the most part, the language of instruction is in Hebrew (עברית). Most university professors also speak English, and much of the reading material is in English. Most of the projects need to be handed in, typed in Hebrew.

When you graduate with an Israeli BA you are more employable (תעסוקה) and Israeli companies, especially IT companies are more willing to hire you. Good luck in your educational goals.


Vocabulary about Israeli universities



מבחן פסיכומטרי

מבחן  אמיר


תואר ראשון



Retire in Israel

April 27th, 2013 | Posted by rachael in Hebrew language | Hebrew-English | Israeli culture - (Comments Off on Retire in Israel)

Congratulations (מזל טוב) on your decision to retire in Israel!  Here are some factors that you have to take into account when you move to Israel. The first is that you have to be able to live within a budget. In Israel there are some items that are less expensive, and some that are the same as in a major city in the United States. Make up your monthly budget (תקציב) now and learn to live within it.

Expenses to take into account when you retire in Israel

Rent (השכרת דירה) is about the same. Take this into account when making up your monthly budget. Many people buy (קניה) their own apartment, find an English speaking Realtor(מתווך) who will help you through the process. Other people rent an apartment directly from the owner.

Food: processed foods are more expensive especially if they are imported. Fresh food, especially if you shop in an open air market such as the Ben Yehuda market in Jerusalem is much cheaper( זול ) and fresher than in the United States.

Transportation: a big part of everyone’s budget is transportation. (תחבורה) You can bring your car (מכונית) for personal use, but it is very complicated (מסובך) and there are lots of rules about the model and year of the car. So it is best to use a car importer, which could be expensive. The best, in my opinion is to buy one here. You might find out that traveling by bus or taxi is more cost efficient because of the high cost of car insurance (בטוח)

Learning Hebrew as a retiree

It is best to have a working knowledge of Hebrew before you come to live in Israel. If you can already speak the language, then when you go to Ulpan, a school to learn Hebrew, you can then get the finishing touches on your language acquisition. When you finish, you will feel that you can really interact with Israeli society. You will learn vocabulary that will help you in finding a part time job or a volunteering opportunity, instead of still tripping over your tongue when you want to find out where the bus goes.  I once had a bus driver give me a 10 minute grammar lesson when I asked ” Where does this bus go?”  ( “איפה האוטובוס הולך”) Well, the problem word was “go or travel” (נוסע) I used the word for walk. (הולך)  So he told me how to rephrase the question. Where does this bus line travel? ( איפה הקו הזה נוסע)

Good luck in your new home in Israel!

Vocabulary about retiring in Israel

מזל טוב


השכרת דירה










איפה הקו הזה נוסע

Learning about Pesach

March 11th, 2013 | Posted by rachael in Hebrew-English | Israeli culture - (Comments Off on Learning about Pesach)

Pesach (פסח) is the Jewish holiday that falls in the spring, usually in late March or early April. It is the holiday that celebrates the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt. The Jews were slaves in Egypt for 210 years. They were forced to build cities for the Egyptian Pharoh (פרעה). The holiday lasts for 7 days in Israel, and 8 outside of Israel. One of the hallmarks of Passover as it is called in English is that bread and other products that are made with yeast are not eaten the whole week.

The events leading up to the actual Exodus are described in the Bible, in the book of Exodus (שמות). Moses (משה) lead the people out of Egypt and they received the Torah on Mt. Sinai  (הר סיני).

Cleaning for Pesach

We celebrate Pesach by first cleaning out our houses from all forms of breads (לחם), cakes and cookies. This often takes some time especially for families with many children, because you never know where all the hiding places may be.

Search for the Bread

Next we do a search for the bread. This is lots of fun for the children because they take a piece of bread, wrap it up in a piece of paper, and then hide 10 small pieces around the  house.  When all the pieces are found by the father, it is put aside for burning the next day.

The Seder (הסדר)

The most important part of Pesach is the Seder. The family gathers around the table, which has been set fit for a king, with special table settings, four cups of wine (יין), the seder plate with the different symbolic foods. The service is read from a special book called the Hagadda (הגדה), that tells the story of the Exodus. At certain places in the seder, a symbolic food is eaten. First is the parsley, then bitter herbs (מרור) and then the Matza (מצה), the special unleavened bread, that is made without yeast and is not allowed to rise. The seder can take a long time, and it is not uncommon for families to stay up very late. The festive meal is then served with many traditional foods such as chicken soup, kugels and very tasty Pesach desserts.

In Israel the children are on vacation from the week before Pesach until the 8th day. It is a time for families to spend time together.

Pesach is a great time to visit Israel, the weather is very pleasant, lots of cultural activities are organized and the atmosphere is great, you can even enjoy a kosher lepesach pizza or pasta! Get ready for your trip to Israel with Hebrew conversation lessons via Skype.

Vocabulary about Pesach





הר סיני







The Jerusalem Marathon 2013

February 27th, 2013 | Posted by rachael in Hebrew-English | Israeli culture | Tourism in Israel - (Comments Off on The Jerusalem Marathon 2013)

The International Jerusalem Winner Marathon is now in its third year. The race includes three categories, a full marathon, half marathon and a 10 kilometers. The route takes the runners through the history of Jerusalem, each time they go to a different place they see the beauty of Jerusalem.

The Marathon will take place on March 1st 2013, and the deadline to enter all three races was on Feb 16th, so now if you want to participate, you can cheer your favorite runner.  March 1st was chosen as the date, because usually the weather has warmed up a bit and it hopefully won’t rain!

The cost of entering the Marathon

The cost is from $36 – $72, for non Israelis and 60 NIs to 240 NIS. In the public race, you can walk or run, and everyone gets a T-shirt for entering.

If you are already registered for the Marathon, be sure that you are in the final phase of your training. There will be a pre-run EXPO fair between February 26-28 at the International Conference Center, Jerusalem.  The subjects will be on sports and health.


David Ben Gurion

February 17th, 2013 | Posted by rachael in Hebrew-English | Israeli culture - (Comments Off on David Ben Gurion)

David Ben Gurion was the first Prime Minister (ראש ממשלה) of Israel.  Before that he was a mover and a shaker in the movement to establish the State of Israel. He was born in 1886 in Czarist Russia, with the name David Gruen which he brought into Hebrew as Ben Gurion. He was an early leader of the Zionist Movement whose aim was the establishment of a Jewish State.

Ben Gurion first came to Israel, then known as Palestine in 1906. He worked as a common laborer (פועל), joining the Poelai Zion (פועלי ציון) Party, and because of his personality was soon elected chairman.   The British were very suspicious( חשדו ) of him when World War I broke out and deported him.  He went to the United States (ארצות הברית) where he met his future wife, a nursing student, Paula Munweiss. They got married (התחתנו) , and in 1918, he joined the British Army, going to Egypt to fight. The war (מלחמה) was over by then,  and the British received Palestine as a Mandate to enforce the Balfour Declaration.  He went to Palestine with his wife and became the leader of the Labor Zionism movement.

In 1948, as The British Mandate was finishing, Ben Gurion started to prepare the country for the upcoming struggle with the surrounding Arab countries who he knew were going to invade as soon as the British left. He consolidated the army, with the Palmach, on the left with the Lechi on the right to make the Israeli Defense Forces (צה”ל). On May 14th 1948, the State of Israel was born, and plunged immediately into a war for its right to be the homeland for the Jews. Ben Gurion was the first Prime Minister.

As Prime Minister, he organized the IDF , the Israel Defense Forces, helped unify the country, sometimes through controversial means.  He negotiated agreements (הסכמות) after the war with Germany and France.   He helped settle hundreds of thousands refugees, Jews from Arab countries who fled to Israel when the gates of immigration were opened.

During his second stint as Prime Minister he was plagued by the Lavon Affair, which split the Mapai Party and in 1963, resigned (התפטר) from office. He died in 1973, after the Yom Kippur War. He was a great statesman and leader.

Vocabulary about David Ben Gurion

ראש ממשלה


פועלי ציון


ארצות הברית







February 17th, 2013 | Posted by rachael in Hebrew-English | Israeli culture - (Comments Off on Purim)

Purim (פורים)  is the Jewish holiday of joy. Everyone is happy (שמח) on Purim! There are many customs (מנהגים) of Purim that are very interesting. This is the one holiday in the Jewish calendar which happened outside Israel in Persia, but it is a beloved holiday by kids and adults alike.

In Israel, Purim is a bit  like the European Carnival, but comes later in the year. The date (תאריך)  in the Jewish calendar is the 14th of Adar, and in Jerusalem the 15th. The celebrations take place in the early spring usually in late February or early March. The kids start by getting their parents to go to the toy stores and buy costumes (תילבושת). Traditionally kids used to make their own to dress up as Queen Esther, Mordechai or King Asuerus. Now kids dress up as traditional characters, but also you will find Batman, Ninjas, lots of Policemen and Soldiers.

In school, there is no real learning the week (שבוע) of Purim. The schools run a Shuk Purim where games of skill and chance are played by throwing balls, or darts, hopefully magnetic, and most everyone wins a prize.

Purim Day  is celebrated in Israel by first listening to the Megilla (מגילה), the book of Esther,  being read aloud in the synagogue, in the evening. This a very noisy affair. Then everyone goes home to have a Purim Party (סעודת פורים). There are special Purim songs that are sung, and one of the most surprising  features for a Jewish holiday is that it is permitted to get drunk (שיכור).

The next day we go again to the synagogue to hear the Megilla, and then you exchange food gifts (משלוח מנות) with your friends and neighbors. Donations (תורמות) of money to the poor is given out on Purim Day so that the poor can be happy as well.

Have fun on Purim!

Vocabulary about Purim





January 20th, 2013 | Posted by rachael in Hebrew-English | Israeli culture | Tourism in Israel - (Comments Off on Ra’anana)

Ra’anana ( רַעֲנָנָה) is a city of immigrants.  They immigrated from Tel Aviv in 1922 with just nine people, four “Ahuzat members, three workers and two watchmen. The originial name was Ahuzat A – New York, because many people who came to live there were from New York. Today Ra’anana is a city (עיר)  with over 70,000 people.  Most of them are native Israelis with a large amount of English, French and Spanish speakers. Most of the residents live in Ra’anana, and work in Tel Aviv or Herzlya in the Hi-Tech sectors.

Ra’anana’s claim to fame is “The Park”, it is the largest park in Israel with a lake, a petting zoo, a bike trail and free shows in the Amphitheater during the summer. They have a very good sound system, so the shows are very enjoyable, you can sit on the grass and enjoy the music and other events.

Ra’anana has a very good educational system, there are 12 elementary schools  בית ספר יסודי) 10)  middle schools (חטיבת ביניים) and 8 high schools.  (תיכון ) They have programs for special education and what is not so common, also for gifted students.

There are many synagogues and there is a large population of Modern Orthodox Jews, you can see Chanukias (חנוכיות)  in many windows as you walk about town right now during Chanuka.

Housing prices are similar to Jerusalem, a three room (two bedroom) apartment can sell for $300,000, up to $500,000 for a five room apartment. Rentals start at $1,000 a month.

It is easy to get to Ra’anana by car, you drive on Highway 4, (כביש 4)  get off at Ahuza, turn leftת drive one or two traffic lights (רמזורים) and you are in the center of town.  It is only 25 minutes from Tel Aviv, but with morning traffic it might take you longer to get to work there.

Meir Hospital (בית חולים מאיר) is in Ra’anana, and it serves also Herzlya.  The maternity ward is very famous, many women coming from other parts of the country to give birth there.

If you want quality of life, (אכיות החיים) and still be in the city, Ra’anana is a good place to live.


Vocabulary about Ra’anana



בית ספר יסודי

חטיבת ביניים



כביש 4


בית חולים מאיר

אכיות החיים


Bourekas Israeli Movies

December 5th, 2012 | Posted by rachael in Hebrew-English | Israeli culture - (Comments Off on Bourekas Israeli Movies)

Bourekas Movies (בורקס ) were popular in the 1970’s in Israel.  They were melodramatic movies often depicting the struggle of Sephardi (ספרדי) Jews against the dominant Ashkenazim, (אשקנזים)  who were the land owners, businessmen and politicians. ( פוליטיקאי)

Why was the Bourekas Genre so popular?

The main character who the viewer identified with was a Sephardi Jew, who was not as well educated and lived in a poor neighborhood. The movies often showed the Sephardi, who was street smart in conflict with the Ashkenazi. The actors often imitated different Hebrew accents, (מיבטא) and used slapstick humor, alternative identities and comedy. Many movie goers were Sephardi, so they identified with the social situation depicted in the films.

Why was the term Bourekas Movies applied to these films? (סרטים)

The term Bourekas Movies was a spin off from the Spaghetti Westerns that were being make in Italy, set in the Western United States.  The name caught on, so these movies became quite popular  ( פופולארי ) during the tense time period in Israel.

What are Bourekas?

Bourekas are a pastry that is unique to the Middle East, with salty dough, folded over a filling, often potato, mushroom, cheese or as a dessert with chocolate.  These films are like bourekas because the Sephardi character on the outside may be crusty, but in the inside, once you get to know them they are a delight.

Famous Bourekas Movies Directors and Actors

Boaz Davidson was the first to call these types of movies Bourekas, and he made many movies in the genre (סגנון) notabley Charlie VHetzi (צרלי וחצי)  a comedy.

Ze’ev Revach was an actor and director who made some of the most famous movies, and many others.  He was most identified with the genre until the end of the 1980’s when they lost popularity.

Yosef Shiloach – played in many Bourekas films, as well as in Hollywood.  He is most identified with the character “The Persian” where he used a Persian accent.

One actor who went on to politics is Yoharam Goan, who was popular in these films, he was elected as a Jerusalem City councilman.

These films were very popular in the 1970’s until the 1980’s where more political films became the rage.  Some of these films are still being shown as “cult” films.  So don’t miss these gems when you go to the movies! (קולנוע)

Vocabulary of Bourekas Israeli Movies











December 5th, 2012 | Posted by rachael in Hebrew-English | Israeli culture - (Comments Off on Chanukah)

Chanukah ( חנוכה,) is the holiday that commemorate the re dedication of the Temple  (בית המקדש) after the war with the Syrian Greeks.

How is the Chanukah celebrated?

Chanuka is celebrated by lighting candles at sundown during 8 nights, starting from the 25 of the Hebrew month of Kislev. (כסלו) The Menora, called Hannukiah (חנוכיה)  in Hebrew, is placed in a window (חלון) that is visible from the street. In Jerusalem, many people also light outside  the doorway of the houses, with olive oil  (שמן זית) candles, placed inside a glass box. The purpose of this custom is to publicize the miracle to the passers by.

The Miracle of Chanukah

The most quoted miracle (נס) is the one that happened after the war between the Maccabees and the Syrian Greeks was finished and the High Priest ( כחן הגדול) returned to the Temple to begin the worship and light the 7 branched Menora. They found only one flask of olive oil that had the stamp of the former High Priest. There was only enough oil to keep the Menora burning for one day. The miracle was that instead of only one day of burning, the oil lasted for 8 days. This was just enough time for new oil to be prepared from the picking of the olives to the pressing and refining. The Halacha  (הלכה) of the Temple was that the Menorah had to be kept lit 24 hours a day, and usually new oil was needed each night.

The other observances of Chanukah are additions to the Blessing after eating bread, and special Torah readings in the synagogue. Children are traditionally given money “Chanuka gelt”  (דמי חנוכה) and in modern times, they are given gifts each of the 8 nights.

Vocabulary of Chanukah


בית המקדש




שמן זית


כחן הגדול


דמי חנוכה