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The Maven Knows: HaMevin Mevin

Office Admin : 02/02/2011 16:39 : Israel news

Maven. We’ve all heard the word in various contexts: “He’s such a car maven,” or “She really knows her stuff about food, what a cooking maven!” The dictionary definition of “maven” according to Cambridge is “a person with good knowledge or understanding of a subject.” What does that have to do with Hebrew learning? Exactly that – the word maven is actually Hebrew! No, not from or based on Hebrew, but an actual Hebrew word that has somehow managed to sneak into the English language undetected.

The word מבין, maven in Hebrew, can refer to a noun or a verb. A maven as a noun is someone who understands. As a verb it means “he understands.” It probably came into use in English via Yiddish, where it means the same thing. It became popular in the 1960s when Vita Herring used it in a commercial featuring “the beloved herring maven.” But it really came into use via William Safire, the New York Times “On Language” columnist who used his column for quite a few Yiddishisms, and called himself “the language maven.” In any case, the word, as a noun, has made it into several important, English dictionaries as a proper English word despite its Hebrew and Yiddish origins.

When you take a Hebrew learning course, you’ll find quite a few surprises in words that you thought were English. How did these words all travel overseas and make their mark on the English language? The Hebrew phrase would be “והמבין יבין”, ve’hamaven yavin – one who understands will understand.

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Office Admin : 30/01/2011 20:34 : Israel news

Looking to supplement your Hebrew studies? Beginning February 6, 2011, will be exploring the works of Nobel Laureate SY Agnon in a five-week series directed by Rabbi Jeffrey Sacks. Classical Jewish texts will assist the discussion of spiritual and intellectual ideas of modern Hebrew literature. Participants can opt to attend “Midrash Agnon” at Agnon’s own home in Jerusalem or via Internet broadcast.

₪ 25 per session (₪ 100 for the series)

$25 for online course

Read more about the program here (PDF).

Sign up now at


Intimate Grammar – Israeli film, and the Hebrew Language Benefits Thereof!

Office Admin : 30/01/2011 18:00 : Israel news

What could be more fitting for an Ulpan-Or blog post than one about grammar? That is to say, not your every day, humdrum, tedious, is it a present participle in the pi’el structure (ask a friendly Ulpan-Or instructor about that) kind of grammar but a warmer, more personal kind. Intimate, one might even say. Yes, Intimate Grammar, an adjective not commonly associated with the rules, regulations, peculiarities and idiosyncrasies of language but nonetheless a concept worthy of examination.

Because Intimate Grammar (הפנימי הדקדוק Ha’dikduk Ha’pnimi) is the name of the Israeli film that won the prestigious Tokyo Sakura Grand Prix in October this year, the top prize at the Tokyo International Film Festival. The movie, based on a novel by award winning Israeli author David Grossman, follows 11-year old Aaron Kleinfeld, a boy growing up in Jerusalem in the 1960s whose classmates all hit puberty while his own body stubbornly refuses to mature. The film tracks Aaron and his family in pre-Six Day War Israel through three years of their lives, illuminating the societal frameworks and systems that were Israel forty years ago. The “grammatical” aspect of the story is perhaps the identification and exploration of those societal structures that mold and regulate the lives of the protagonists, just as grammar provides the necessary structure for language.

Now, to segue over to some Ulpan-Or Hebrew content briefly, grammar (דקדוק – dikduk) in general can often be a stumbling block to acquiring a new language, as learning the rules can be, to put it mildly, rather yawn-inducing, whilst still being an important component of grasping a foreign tongue (figuratively speaking).

The Rapid Language Acquisition method which Ulpan-Or uses to teach Hebrew is, as might be deduced from the name, aimed at acquiring the language through instinctual, natural communication, which is more similar to the way a child learns to speak than to the dry, by-wrote, traditional class-room teaching methods. This is the secret of Ulpan-Or’s success and the reason why students who learn Hebrew with us develop their language skills so much quicker than at other schools.

Back to our Israeli film theme, Israeli cinema in recent years has really come of age, with a number of movies winning prestigious film awards and a couple even being nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars. A couple of those recent classics include Or (My Treasure) which won five awards at the Cannes Film Festival; Waltz with Bashir, nominated for Best Foreign Language film at the Oscars, which is a fantastically somber, ghostly and eerie retrospective of a veteran IDF soldier’s experiences from the war in Lebanon in the early ‘80s; and one of my personal favorites, Mivtza Grandma (Operation Grandma).

The movie is a hysterically funny slapstick Israeli comedy about three brothers who have to bury their grandmother on the day that one of the brothers, an army officer nick-named “Krembo” (a nickname referring to the chocolaty pinnacle of Israeli cuisine), has to take part in a military exercise in order to ensure his promotion. This film didn’t win any awards but has become an Israeli cult classic.

If you can get a hold of it then definitely check it out. Watching films and television in Hebrew with subtitles, even in Hebrew, is a great way of learning the language and Mivtza Grandma is a riot! As Krembo barks in his signature sign off, “We Clear!?!?!”

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Social Benefits of Classroom Learning

Office Admin : 30/01/2011 14:22 : Israel news

Learning a language, or anything else for that matter, is most often done in setting where there is a group of people. The obvious reason for this is that it’s the method that is most conducive to understanding. Live instruction allows for a deeper connection, and more importantly, the ability to ask questions and have a dialogue with a teacher.

When you learn a language, being in a environment with other participants is a major factor in the process. It’s the closest you can get to immersion learning, which is the best method for learning languages. Even if you are living, and totally immersed in, an environment with a new language, it can be intimidating and difficult to learn without guidance. When you’re with other students doing the same thing, you can all be embarrassed together. All kidding aside, you’ll be less inhibited because mistakes are expected and trying in the face of adversity is encouraged.

An added plus are the social benefits. People generally click better with others of a similar background, lifestyle, and with similar goals, and that’s what you’ll find in a language learning school. If you show up in a new country and don’t know too many people, you’ll naturally gravitate toward those like you; people who know your language, both literally and figuratively. You can bond over nouns and adjectives and help each other adjust both inside and outside of the classroom. You’ll all most likely have a few connections in other places, and this is how you can build a grounded community of support in a distant land.

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Shalom! A Word for All Seasons

Office Admin : 27/01/2011 09:36 : Israel news

They say Aloha in Hawaii and שלום , “shalom,” in Israel. It means hello, goodbye, and peace. Israeli’s use it colloquially on a regular basis, including the word in the vernacular for many purposes. It’s a word of connection and bonding, of bringing people together.

Its main meaning is peace, and all other usages stem from this. The word comes from the root מ ש לwhich means complete or whole. It can also signify tranquility, ease, wholeness, and rest. In Hebrew, there are generally fewer words that have more meanings, as opposed to English where there is another word for every angle of meaning. When someone greets another or bids him farewell, his is essentially saying “welcome in peace” or “go in peace.”

A common phrase in Hebrew based off the word shalom is “מה שלומך?” which literally translates into “what is your peace?” but actually means “How are you?” or “what’s doing with you?” or the less informal, “what’s up?”

A more formal expression when greeting someone is “שלום עליכם,” or “peace be unto you.” It’s just a more proper term of introduction, somewhat more like “nice to meet you.”

The rootל מ שalso means “to pay” when conjugated in a particular way. It comes from the fact that paying is completing a purchase and making the transaction “whole.”

The most famous use of the word shalom must be then-President Bill Clinton’s eulogy for assassinated Israeli Prime Minister, which ended with “Shalom, Chaver,” or “Goodbye, friend.”

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Some Hebrew Vocabulary for Visitors to Israel

Office Admin : 26/01/2011 12:42 : Israel news

שלום! Shalom! And welcome to Israel, known to the natives as ארץ ישראל, Eretz Yisrael, or מדינת ישראל, Medinat Yisrael, or just הארץ, Ha’Aretz for short. You’ll need a few Hebrew words to get around, so you could learn Hebrew, or you could take this quick crash course. (Ok, you can probably get by in English if you’re just visiting, but you’ll have more fun with Hebrew.)

Start by getting into a מונית monit, or taxi, at the נמל התעופה nemal hateufa, or airport. Cab drivers expect to be bargained down, so don’t be timid and negotiate to get the best price. If you look too touristy you’ll be out of luck, as he’ll quote a price of about double the normal rate. So be prepared with some extra שקלים sh’kalim, the Israeli currency.

Next, off to your מלון malon, or hotel. You want the room with the נוף nof, or view. Israel has a large range of hotels, from the height of luxury to the dormitory type. Make sure you know what you’re getting into before you get there. There are even hostels in Eilat that offer army cots in huts, so clarify the extent of the accommodations.

Tour is easy, it’s תיור tiyur. While there are many standard touring itineraries with stops at museums and fairs, Israel is a hiking country. Locals regularly take thousands-of-years-old routes through mountainous terrain that was once traversed by our earliest ancestors. Pencil in at least one hike, or טיול tiyul, to get a real appreciation for the breathtaking beauty this country has to offer; and when you’re done, thank the tour guide with a hearty תודה רבה toda raba.

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Renovated Jerusalem Apartment for Rent

Office Admin : 24/01/2011 10:26 : Israel news

Are you an Ulpan-Or student in Jerusalem?

Just visiting Jerusalem?

Do you need a great place to stay while in Jerusalem?

If you answered yes to any of the above, Ulpan-Or has the solution for you!

We have a luxurious, charming, and newly renovated three bedroom apartment for short term rental in Talbieh, the most beautiful and central neighborhood in Jerusalem.

Renovated Jerusalem Apartment for RentApartment is located within short walk from the German Colony neighborhood.

We are also a short walk from the Old City. This large apartment is perfect for families. Located on the first floor of a quiet and private building typical of Talbieh, this apartment is complete with a large public park/garden in the backyard. It is equipped with all the modern amenities needed to make your stay both comfortable and relaxing. Mendele Street is located in a perfect location within Jerusalem, a short walking distance from the Old City, the downtown shopping district, Emek Refaim, The Jerusalem Theater, multiple museums, and the main hotel area.

The apartment is equipped with all modern amenities needed to ensure a comfortable and enjoyable stay.
Jerusalem Vacation Apartment for Rent

  • One master bedroom (with a bathroom)
  • Two additional bedrooms
  • One separate bathroom +2 additional toilets.
  • Porch with a nice view toward the YCMA / King David complex buildings.
  • Dairy kitchen
  • Washer & Dryer
  • Wireless connection
  • Cable TV (Two TV sets)
  • Air conditioned + centrally heated
  • 3rd floor (no elevator)
  • Parking available (paid parking during day time)

A special discount is available for Ulpan-Or students.

Please see apartment pictures here.

Staying in this great location is an experience like no other. You will find yourself just a couple of steps from numerous tourist attractions, synagogues, local hot spots, restaurants, cafes, shops and pubs.

For more information please contact Sharon at +972-2-561-1132 or by email at

To make your payment go to

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