Hebrew can be a hard language to learn. When I first migrated here, I was going insane trying to figure out what the heck Israelis were talking about! Not only is the language confusing and the sentence structure completely different from English, the fast pace at which Israelis talk can make your head spin! But the longer I’ve lived here, the more I’ve realized that there are frequent words and phrases that Israelis love to say. And some of these don’t necessarily make sense. More importantly, the tone at which Israelis say these phrases can speak volumes. Here are a few of the most common phrases that one needs to know before even stepping foot into this country. 


Sababa (סבבה)

Language: Arabic, Meaning: Cool

You will hear many locals use this word casually in most sentences to show agreement. 

Use: Sababa, let’s go and see check out that new bar on Dizengoff


Kapara (כפרה)

Language: Arabic, Meaning: A Form of Affection For a Close Friend. 

Arabic slang has entered the Hebrew language and given us many wonderful terms of endearment, including ‘Kapara’ – a word used to refer to our closest friends. 

Use: Kapara – thanks for bringing me the extra hummus!


Xaval Al Hazman (חבל על הזמן)

Language: Hebrew, Translation: Waste of Time

Though it sounds negative, this is actually a good term! It’s commonly used to describe something completely amazing and fun.

Use: That pita was incredible – xaval al hazman!


Ezeh Basa (איזה באסה)

Language: Hebrew, Translation: Bummer

Bummer is the best way to describe it, and even more so – it needs to be said with elongated word endings.

Use: Oh man, you got a fine for riding your electric scooter without a helmet? Ezeeeeeh Basaaaa.  


Balagan (בלאגן)

Language: Russian, Translation: Mess or Chaos

Thanks to Russian immigrants, Israeli’s got a wonderful word to describe a ‘mess’ in their life or a situation. 

Use: The Shuk today was a massive balagan! Totally avoid it today!


Al Hapanim (על הפנים)

Language: Hebrew, Translation: On the Face

As confusing as ‘xaval al hazman’ is, Al Hapanim is another one that means something different to the literal meaning of the words. Al Hapanim is a way of describing something negatively or delivering a bad review.

Use: Don’t bother seeing that movie. It was Al Hapanim. 


Achi (אחי)

Language: Hebrew, Translation: My brother. 

Used for both friends and your waiter at a restaurant, it is a way of nicely getting someone’s attention. Much like you would use the word ‘dude’ or ‘bro’ in English. 

Use: Achi! Can I pay for the bill?


Chai B’Seret (חי בסרט)

Language: Hebrew, Translation: Living in a Movie

Thought living in a movie could be a good thing, this term is used to describe someone as delusional or crazy. 

Use: Chai B’Seret if you think that hummus place is the best hummus in the city!


Neshama (נשמה)

Language: Hebrew, Translation: Soul.

Use Jews really love using terms of endearment, especially towards our friends. Nothing describes our friends better than calling them ‘neshama sheli’ or ‘our soul.’ 

Use: Neshama sheli! It’s been such a long time. 


Manyak (מניאק)

Language: Russian, Translation: Maniac

Another way of saying ‘you’re crazy’ or ‘you’re an asshole’. This can be used in both a loving or insulting way. 

Use: You manyak! Thanks for the gift!


L’Chaim (לחיים)

Language: Hebrew, Translation: To Life

Everyone knows this one. So I won’t bother explaining it.

Use: Here’s to you! L’Chaim! To life!