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What happens in your country when a waiter drops a tray in a packed restaurant and everything on the tray shatters to pieces?
Is there an awkward silence? Does everyone avert their eyes from the embarrassed waiter as he quickly sweeps up all the broken pieces? Maybe there are a few softly muttered curses from him or the floor manager..?
Do you know what happens in Israel in such a situation?
The entire restaurant, including the manager and all the staff and the people passing by outside, and the person who sneaked in to use the toilet will gleefully shout out in unison: "MAZAL TOV!!"
It means "Congratulations" in Hebrew and everyone is playfully 'congratulating' the waiter on his pending marriage.
The final act of a Jewish wedding is the symbolic breaking of something by stepping on a covered glass. It is done to remember the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. Then it is time to congratulate the couple and dash off to go and stuff yourself.
There are a few other unique expressions or sayings you will only hear in Israel in specific situations, though not in dramatic situations such as dropping a tray of glasses. And yes, of course I am happy to tell you about them 😁.
One of these is the word "tithadash" said to a man or "tithadshi" said to a woman. You will only hear it if you bought or received something new.
I just cannot think of an equivalent in English. It means something like "Enjoy the new thing." You will usually hear it from a salesperson who just sold you something or from your friends when they realize you got something new.
And it only counts for something cool new like a new pair of shoes, car or furniture. Not something boring new such groceries or dishwashing liquid.
Another difficult-to-translate Hebrew word that you only hear in specific situations is the second meaning of the word "bevakesa".
Bevakesa technically translates into "please" (the first meaning) but it is a bit of an awkward word. Maybe it is because Israelis are not all that polite in the first place 😁. I definitely do not hear it a lot. For example in a packed train or elevator we will never say, "Can you please move aside?". It is more like "Can I get out!?"
The second meaning of "bevakesa" translates into something that means more or less "here, take this thing that I am happy to give to you". You will hear it from old-school Israelis or polite Arab waiters when they bring or give you something.
There is no similar word in English, is there?
The Arabic word "fadala" however means exactly the same thing.
Be aware that the second "bevakesa" is often said in a passive-aggressive and/or sarcastic way.
Let's say that you bother a lazy clerk on her extended coffee break for a form or signature or something like that. When she finally hands you the thing and says loudly "Bevakesa!" she didn't really mean that she is happy to serve you. Her tone will definitely let you know that this is more of a #politenotpolite situation. Just smile nicely and reply thank you.
Then there is the expression, "Be' teavon" which means "with good taste" - exactly like the French "Bon appetit". I have found that here in Israel people use it sometimes in a odds situations.
Let's say that you are handed food in a restaurant or in someone's house who invited you for a meal. This is a normal situation to hear "Be' teavon".
But let's say that you are innocently eating your lunch sandwich in a park and a stranger walks by and says "Be' teavon" or you are just dipping a cookie in a cup of coffee at work and one of your work colleagues says "Be' teavon". Then it means more like "ah, I see that you are stuffing your face again".
New immigrants or tourists sometimes also say it because they often hear it from the native Israelis. Please don't. Unless you are serving people or have made the food, don't say "Be' teavon"! Just nod your head to acknowledge the person and be on your way. There is really no need to comment on the fact that someone is eating something.
There are also the words "acheri hachagim" which means "after the holidays". There are SO many Jewish holidays celebrated here in Israel that you have to consult your calender carefully if you are planning something.
Often "acheri hachagim" is just used an excuse so check the dates catefully if you suspect that someone is just stringing you along!
And there you have it, a few of the sayings that you will hear in Israel in specific situations. Some are fun, some are surprisingly polite and some are on the sarcastic side, which is actually quite a good description of your average Israeli!