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If we knew you were coming…we would have sent along some YouTube clips to help improve your Hebrew!

While there is really no substitute for intensive Hebrew study, there are several exercises anyone can do to familiarize themselves with the language, brush up on their vocab, and just get used to hearing Hebrew being spoken. YouTube is a gold mine of Hebrew language clips; search for Rechov Sumsum (רחוב סומסום) for the Israeli version of Sesame Street. Aimed at children, the show (and its YouTube segments) often feature musical numbers and a slower pace ideal for beginners, as oppose to Israeli news or adult programs which may require greater aptitude. Here is a sample, featuring a Hebrew rendition of “If I Knew You Were Coming I’d Have Baked a Cake”. The familiar tune will not be all you recognize; “Arik” and “Ugifletzet” (Ugi) are Ernie and Cookie Monster’s identical Israeli cousins!Check our list of basic words below and see how many you can catch in the video!Vocabulary:אני/Ani – I איפה /Effo – Where כן/Ken – Yes מתוק/Metuka – Sweet שלום/Shalom – Hello שם/Sham – There שלי/Sheli – My (i.e. “My cake”) טלפון/Telephone – Telephone היום/Yom – Day עוגה/Ugia – Cake

Hebrew Word for “Compost” Required – All Suggestions Welcome

The Hebrew language is at once both extremely old and very new. Ancient Hebrew dates back thousands of years as the language used to write the Bible, spoken by the inhabitants of the ancient kingdoms of Israel and Judah.But Hebrew became extinct as a spoken language during the two-thousand year long exile of the Jewish people from their homeland. It took the phenomenon of Zionism and Eliezer Ben-Yehudah to put a change to all that.Ben-Yehudah, a Zionist from Russia who settled in Jerusalem in 1881, ardently believed that reviving Hebrew as the national language was a critical step in re-establishing a sovereign Jewish state. He toiled for years compiling his “Complete Dictionary of Ancient and Modern Hebrew,” in which he synthesised Ancient, Talmudic and Medieval Hebrew while coining thousands of new words not present in earlier forms of the language.The only problem is, he died nearly 90 years ago and there are a few modern concepts and inventions that he wasn’t around to translate into Hebrew. Television for example, Internet, sushi, recycling, global warming and Justin Bieber are all concepts and phenomenons of which Ben-Yehudah was unaware (not necessarily to his misfortune).Step in the Academy of the Hebrew Language, founded in 1953, whose job it is to create new words to keep Hebrew up-to-date with the modern world. Now, anyone who’s been to Israel and tried to learn a bit of Hebrew knows that a lot of these new concepts and modern inventions are just transliterated from English. Radio is raa-dio, cornflakes are corrrrnfleks (a synonym for all breakfast cereal as well), Internet is Interrrnet and so on. Often, these are the hardest words to actually read in Hebrew since they’re so unfamiliar. Many are the new immigrants who squint and mutter under their breath, syllable by syllable “what is that?…su-perre-mar-qet…oh supermarket!”But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t at least try to make up our own words. Right now the Hebrew Language Academy is looking for all words compost related. So at the very least, there’s a noun and a verb up for grabs and possibly a present participle/gerund too. So get thinking and mint the new Hebrew word for compost; you’ll be one step closer to learning the language. Ulpan-Or will help you with the rest.

Stick a Virtual Note in the Western Wall via your iPhone

We all know at least one person who doesn’t stop twittering on about how amazing their iPhone (אייפון – iPhone – Israelis are nothing if not innovative!) is. In fact, many of us are guilty of this modern crime ourselves and the phrase “my iPhone app can do that” has become a nauseatingly annoying refrain of our time.But now, in addition to the everyday pursuits of your life that iPhone apps can assist , there’s an app that will help elevate your soul (נפשnefesh) and let you reach new spiritual heights. Yes, you can now post a prayer-note in the Western Wall (המערבי הכותלHaKotel ha’ma’Aravi) from anywhere on earth.For thousands of years, Jews have travelled to Jerusalem to visit the Western Wall, one of the last remaining remnants of the Second Temple (המקדש בית Beit ha’Mikdash), which was destroyed by the Romans in 70 C.E. Having arrived at the Western Wall, Jews write their most heartfelt prayers (תפילותtephilot) and desires on a note and insert it into one of the numerous nooks and crannies in the Wall .The only problem is you have to be in Jerusalem in the first place. But, now thanks to the iPhone and the people at the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, you can send an email with your prayer, which will be printed off and placed in the Wall. Instant Karma, as they say.You can also see live streaming video footage of the Western Wall and find out which direction Jerusalem is, in order to align yourself with the city to start your prayers.The app is in ongoing development with an eye on the future, when the Temple will be rebuilt. An app for slaughtering animal sacrifices (קורבנותkorbanot) should be operational by then, although it will only function with the iPhone 5000 which has a really sharp edge!

Dogs Learn Hebrew

Running a marathon is no easy feat. Running it in 3hrs 44mins is pretty good going. Doing so when you’ve lost your sight is amazing, but that’s what Israeli runner, Gadi Yarkoni succeeded in doing.Fifteen years ago, Gadi was serving in the Israeli army in Lebanon when he was wounded in battle and lost his eyesight. Following the incident, Gadi knew he had to regain his freedom and that the only way of doing so was by getting a guide dog. Since then, Gadi has had 3 guide dogs including his current companion, Timmy, a gorgeous black Labrador.Gadi was paired up with Timmy through the Israel Guide Dog Center for the Blind, the first such center in Israel to train dogs in Hebrew. Until then, the only option for Israelis who were blind or visually impaired was to go the U.S. for instruction with an English-speaking canine. For anyone who couldn’t speak English however, this was not an option.The Israel guide-dog center opened in 1991 and has trained 400 dogs in Hebrew. The training period for the dog is long, rigorous and very expensive, costing $25,000 per dog and taking two years to complete.Out of 27,000 registered blind people in Israel, only 250 have guide dogs, although the number is steadily increasing. For Gadi, it has changed his life completely and allowed him to regain the freedom he lost along with his eyesight, enabling him to do things like running a 26 mile marathon to raise money for the guide-dog center.Running alongside Gadi in the New York marathon was Noach Braun, the founder of the Israeli Guide Center who works at the center with his wife Orna. Gadi and Noach were actually tethered together as they ran the grueling course.The guide-dog center has had some high profile support in the past with the prominent British politician and former minister David Blunkett paying a visit in 2007. Blunkett is himself blind and is always accompanied by his own guide dog. Despite his disability, Blunkett rose to high office and was appointed Home Secretary by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Another high profile supporter of the center was the former British Ambassador to Israel, Tom Phillips, who left his post this year. Both Philips and his wife helped train puppies for the center during their time in Israel.Clearly, Ulpan-Or and the Israeli guide-dog center have something in common: teaching Hebrew. It should be noted though that at Ulpan-Or you’ll rarely be told to “fetch” or “sit”. If you’re lucky though we may give you a pat on the head and you might even find a “biscuit” or two coming your way by rapidly gaining fluency in the Hebrew language.The other major difference, besides the number of legs of the two different types of students, is that at Ulpan-Or, learning Hebrew is a much faster process than at the guide-dog center. This is attributable to Ulpan-Or’s unique formula for acquiring the language quickly and the somewhat greater IQ of most of our students!

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