Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Hebrew: The Bane of My Existence

If I were to take a leisurely stroll along the exquisite Mediterranean and happen upon a magic lamp, my first wish would not be two large shipping vessels full of size 6 Manolo Blahniks nor would it be for Paris Hilton to have never been born (although they would be my second and third wishes respectively). No, my dears, my very first wish would be to immediately speak, read and write perfect Hebrew.

“You’ll pick it up so quickly,” they say. “In six months, you’ll be able to converse with ease,” they say. I know! I know! Be patient. Rome was not built in a day and I certainly cannot learn a entire language, as good as Rosetta Stone may be, in one day. So in light of this fact, you will have to continue to be entertained by my language mishaps.

Mishap 1: Learning the hard way...

I bravely head to Shufersal , our neighborhood supermarket, by myself to pick up some bottles of water. Easy task, no? DH and I have been in Israel for 2 weeks and cannot find anything to drink in this desert of a country. We don’t drink a lot of colas and have subsisted on the only drinks we find familiar, Sprite and Coke. We’ve tried the Israeli juices…way too sweet for our taste. Crystal Light, our drink of choice, doesn’t exist. And water from the tap tastes like you stuck a metal rod in your mouth. Bottled water is our saving grace.

The trek to the store is a brief 2 or 3 block walk, but in the heat it feels more like 2 miles uphill both ways backwards on your knees. I walk into the store, see an aisle of bottled water, look for the largest bottles I could manage to lug back and look for the word ma’im written in Hebrew. Yep, there it is...a whole shelf of ma'im…water! I pull out my shekels and pay for my ma’im and walk out the door head held high. Success!! I have confronted the scary grocery store by myself and was handsomely rewarded with two deliciously cold bottles of water.

After the 2 mile hike uphill both ways backwards and on my knees I finally reach home. I deserve a tall icy glass of water. I break out our brand new glasses, throw in some ice…clink clink…and pour. The satisfying swig of water in my mouth is suddenly disrupted by a strange taste swirling around my tastebuds. Wait…what is that? My mouth curls in disgust. I spit out the water and take another gulp. Ugh! What is that? It tastes like cough syrup flavored watered…like grape cough syrup flavored water. Yep, folks, apparently I didn’t know the word for grape in Hebrew. Now I do.

Also available in lemon, apricot, grapfruit and Robatussin Cough flavors. 

Mishap 2: Marilyn and the Menace

For those of you who don’t know or haven’t picked up already…Marilyn, our precious pup, has quite a few quirks. One of these quirks is that she is a rule follower. I’m telling you…this dog is the tattle tale in grade school, the annoying HR manager who refuses to bend the rules, the police officer who pulls you over going 57 in a 55. She hates hates hates dogs without their leashes on. She stands on the balcony and barks at dogs without their leashes. She picks up her leash and walks herself if we let it drag behind her. And although I completely agree with her on this one, Israelis do not. Israeli dog owners are infamously non-leashers.

This morning, I had a relaxing walk with Marilyn around the neighborhood. I am getting comfortable in my bubble, straying a bit further each day, exploring my tiny piece of the Holy Land. We are entering our building and walking up the second flight of stairs when I hear a dog barking wildly above me. Usually, I am not nervous around dogs at all. But this bark was menacing

I wrap Marilyn’s leash a bit tighter around my hand and take another step. Again the barking, but louder and getting closer. All of a sudden I see a huge dog barreling down the staircase towards us, without a leash and barking. Marilyn goes wild. A frenzy of snarling ensues. I see a tornado of teeth and fur in my future. I’m yelling Stop! Stay! No! Go Away! to this strange dog, while holding Marilyn back and balancing myself on the narrow stairs. I realize this dog doesn’t know commands in English and I don’t know any commands in Hebrew!!

The owner of this devil dog strolls down the stairs slowly and rapid fires Hebrew to me. I yell at him back in English to control his dog. He says something again in Hebrew and motions me to go back down the stairs. He finally grabs his dog by the neck and moves him past us. DH shows up at the door 3 seconds later, half-asleep and freaking out. Great timing. I now know the word for sit, stop and stay in Hebrew. And a few more curse words.

Marilyn's best impression of the Devil Dog.


  1. It's pronounced "Super-sal" it means "super basket" :) Remember that a ש can be pronounced like "s" if there is a dot over it on the left and the פ can also be pronounced "p". Sounds like you're doing well all in all! I bet you are a little sick of hearing "lay'at lay'at" though :) If you need some English take a day trip to j'lem. That's where all the Americans are!

  2. Good gracious alive..Sounds like you and Marilyn may run into this dog and owner often since yall live in the same place. Try to be friendly with him and if that doesn't work, show him Cassie having a pms moment..hey, she scares me occationally. love ya

  3. Oh my goodness! I am so sorry I totally giggled at your post! I bet it was a frustrating day, I'm glad it's over! (love the picture of your doggie too!)

  4. Thanks Jen! Don't worry I have done plenty of laughing at myself these past few weeks too!

    Mom, pup and devil dog will have to learn to co-habitate I guess!

    Thanks for the advice, but I am pretty sure it is pronounced both Super or Shufer since their website is Even the Wiki page refers to its name as both.