In Israel, when we don’t understand something, we say it’s like Chinese, “Ze kmo Sinit”. That’s because Chinese seems like a very complicated language. It has weird letters and even weirder pronunciations of words. When I traveled to China a few years ago, I couldn’t understand much of what the locals were saying. But I learned that you don’t have to understand words to communicate. You simply need to smile and use a lot of sign language. But, knowing the local language always gets a larger smile from the locals. So, here are some useful words in Hebrew, which you can learn for your trip to Israel.
In Israel, you can talk in English freely with us locals. Many of us will understand. But still, if you want to learn a few basic words, this post will teach you how to ask questions in Hebrew. I will be focusing on three words: WHERE, WHEN, and HOW MUCH (which is one word in Hebrew). When I was traveling alone in China, I felt those three words were very useful. They helped me search for the restroom, find a specific attraction, wait in line for a show, and bargain over a nice necklace I wanted. So, I believe those words would be useful for you while traveling in Israel, too!
The post was last updated on 18 November 2021.
Want to learn more words in Hebrew?
Read – Shalom! 10 Useful Words and Phrases in Israel.
Clarification: When I write “ch” it’s supposed to represent the Hebrew letter “ח” or “כ”. It’s a sound coming from within the throat. To hear it, you can enter this site, which I found very useful.
Table of contents:
How to ask “WHERE” in Hebrew?
In Hebrew, “Where” is “Ei-fo”. If you want to ask “Where is the _____?” you need to ask: “Eifo ha-____?” There is no “is” in Hebrew. “Ha” means “the” and you use it very often when asking the WHERE question, as a prefix of the place or thing you’re looking for. Here are some WHERE questions you might want to ask:
Where is the restroom?
In Hebrew, you ask: “Ei-fo ha-shiru-tim?” Usually, you’ll find restrooms in restaurants. But in most cases, you’ll be asked to buy something to be able to use them. In other cases, they don’t mind you using them. Bars also have restrooms in them. You might have to pay 1-3 Shekels to enter some restrooms at bus stations or other touristic areas.
Where is my hotel?
You probably won’t ask strangers on the street “Where is my hotel?” because they won’t know which hotel you’re talking about. On the other hand, you can ask “Where is *the name of your hotel*?” This is very simple. You just ask “Ei-fo…” and put in your hotel’s name. For example, if you’re looking for Abraham Hostel, you can ask: “Ei-fo Abraham Hostel?”
Where is the bus station?
If you want to ask where is the Central Bus Station, you can ask “Ei-fo ha-mer-ka-zit?” which means “Where is the Central?” When you say “mer-ka-zit” (“central”), the Israelis will understand and give you directions to the city’s central bus station.
If you’re looking for a specific station, you should know what bus line you are looking for. When you know your bus line, ask: “Ei-fo ha-ta-cha-na shel kav *your bus number*?” which means “Where the station of line *your bus number*?” “Ta-cha-na” means “station”, “shel” means “of” and “kav” means “line”. But how do you say your bus number in Hebrew? Look into this Wikipedia page and learn the basics.
Where is the train station?
Planning to travel with Israel Railways to Tel Aviv, Haifa, Be’er Sheva, or Jerusalem? You can see the full list of stations in Israel Railway’s official site. The price of a train ticket is usually a bit higher than a bus ticket. But if you want to get somewhere faster, the train is the way. If you don’t know where is the train station, ask “Ei-fo ta-cha-nat ha-ra-ke-vet?” As I’ve already mentioned above, “ta-cha-na” is “station”. “Ra-ke-vet” means “train”. We add a “t” to the “ta-cha-na” to show that the station belongs to the train.
If you’re in Jerusalem, most people use the light train (“Ra-ke-vet ka-la”), which goes through the city itself.
Need more information about public transportation in Israel?
How to ask “WHEN” in Hebrew?
In Hebrew, “When?” is “Ma-tai?” This word is useful when you’re waiting in line for something. For example, when you’re waiting for your food to arrive in a restaurant or when waiting for a bus or train. Keep in mind that in Israel, not everything comes on time. Many times you’ll discover that Israelis have their own time. So, here are some useful WHEN questions for you:
When will it arrive?
In Hebrew, “it” is “zeh.” When I say “it”, it could be the food (“O-chel”) you ordered, the package (“Cha-vee-la”) you sent, or the bus (“Auto-bus”) you’re waiting for. If the person you’re talking to mentioned the “it”, you can ask in response: “Ma-tai ze ya-gi-ah?” which means “When will it arrive?” But if the person didn’t mention the “it”, you’ll need to be more specific.
If you want to ask when your food will arrive, ask “Ma-tai ha-au-chel ya-gi-ah?” If you want to ask when the package will arrive, ask “Ma-tai ha-cha-vee-la ta-gi-ah?” Why do we say “ya-gi-ah” when we ask about the food and “ta-gi-ah” when we ask about the package? That’s because in Hebrew grammar, the food is masculine and the package is feminine. Maybe I’ll write about gender grammar later on.
And if you want to ask when will your bus arrive, ask: “Ma-tai ya-gi-ah kav *your bus number*?” You can also ask “Ma-tai ma-gi-ah kav *your bus number*?” which means “When does line number ____ arrive?” If you’re not sure if your bus has already passed and you’ve missed it, you can ask: “Kav *your bus number* ah-var?” which means “Line ____ passed?”
When does it start?
“It” can be the show or the event you’re waiting for. In Hebrew, ask: “Ma-tai ze mat-chil?” which means “When does it start?” “Zeh” means “it” and “mat-chil” means “starts”. You can also ask “Ma-tai ze ya-tchil?” which means “When it will start?”
How to ask “HOW MUCH” in Hebrew?
In Hebrew, “How much?” is “Ka-ma?” It’s important to know how to ask “how much” in Israel, because everything has a price and with this word you can start bargaining. Bargaining is very common in Israel. You can negotiate over many things: the prices of the vegetables in the Market (“Shuk”), the entry fee to sites that only accept cash, and the taxi fee.
If you want to ask how much something costs, you can ask: “Ka-ma ze au-leh?” which means “How much it costs?” If you want to know how much it will cost you to take a taxi ride to a specific location, you can ask the driver: “Ka-ma oleh le *the name of your destination*?” which means “How much does it cost to *your destination*?” Make sure to ask BEFORE getting on the taxi. If you don’t like the price, you can try negotiating and lowering the price. “Oleh” means “costs” and “le” means “to”.
You can also use “ka-ma” when asking about time. For example, “how much time will it take?” (“Ka-ma zman ze yee-kach?”) or “how much time does it take?” (“Ka-ma zman ze?” or “Ka-ma zman ze lo-ke-ach?”) “Zman” is “time”. If you want to talk in short, you can just ask “Ka-ma zman?” You should ask “ka-ma zman” when things are taking too long. It will show the other side that’s you’re impatient.
It’s fun to learn Hebrew, right? I hope I’ve given you some useful words in Hebrew. They should help you interact with Israelis and get what you want. Happy travels in Israel!
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Happy days and good luck with your Hebrew studies,