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First time in Israel- Language issues?

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Canton of Geneva...
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First time in Israel- Language issues?

Hi all,

I'm planning a trip to Tel Aviv (and possibly also Jerusalem) for next spring. I've never been to Israel before and want to enjoy Tel Aviv and avoid overpriced, very touristy areas however unfortunately I don't speak any Hebrew at all. I also don't speak Arabic. I am slightly worried about visiting Israel for this reason. I understand that I could probably get by in English but I am worried about this as I don't want to be ripped off with regards to prices in restaurants and I also want to avoid overly tacky and touristy eateries. I've never really been somewhere before that I can't communicate with people (in their native language) so am wondering how much my lack of knowledge of Hebrew will limit where I can visit, eat and what I can do. In addition to English I speak Spanish, Portuguese and French well and am wondering which of these languages will be of most use to me? Will not knowing Hebrew mean I will miss out on eating in smaller, more traditional eateries, for example? My question, I suppose, is how widespread is knowledge of Western European languages and how well will I be able to get by without Hebrew? Thanks for your help!

Haifa, Israel
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1. Re: First time in Israel- Language issues?

Hello there,

No worries. English is widely spoken among the people and they will be glad to help you with any question you might have.

English is one of the national languages in Israel - therefore all street names, road names, traffic signs, train signs etc.. are in English as well.

most tourists do not speak Hebrew and they are doing just fine. some of them don't even speak English very well and they also are doing just fine.

Restaurants has menu, Thu some of them don't have an English menu I am sure that one of the waitress will help you. you don't need to worry about ripping you off just ask how much everything costs before ordering it.

French and other European languages are spoken among some people but it is not as widely used as English.

There is however one important thing that you should know about the English signs in Israel... some of them use different form of English letters (nobody know why it's like that... it will be fixed some day) meaning that if you want to drive to Cesaria... you might see a sign that say Cesaria and you might see other sign that say Qesaria... but both of them mean the same.

Have a nice trip.

if you have any other question we are here :)

Canton of Geneva...
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2. Re: First time in Israel- Language issues?

Brilliant! Thanks very much, you have definitely reassured me! :)

Haifa, Israel
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3. Re: First time in Israel- Language issues?

Have fun. By the way - if you are flying from Lisbon there is an Israeli charter airline called Sun Dor that has some direct flights in the route of Lisbon -Tel Aviv.... it is usually cheaper than other flights from Portugal...

Their site: www.sundor.co.il/sundor/mainlayout.html

at the moment I don't see any flights but it might be changed on Sunday after the holiday is over :)

Hopefully some day we will see TAP airplanes landing in Tel Aviv again :)

Canton of Geneva...
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4. Re: First time in Israel- Language issues?

Thanks for that! I was intending to travel Porto-London with Tap (as I live in N.Portugal) and then London-Tel Aviv with Easyjet but direct from Lisbon could be more convenient and probably less hours of flying too! :)

Israel
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5. Re: First time in Israel- Language issues?

Elad gave you great information - most Israelis speak at least some English - you'd be surprised at how many speak it rather well. Also, most signs are in English as well as Hebrew and Arabic (sorry Elad - English is not one of Israel's official languages). It is simply an awareness that most people cannot read the Hebrew or Arabic alphabet.

If you do run into someone who knows no English at all one of your other languages will probably work well.

In other words - relax, you will not have communications problems, will be able to eat at and visit non-touristy areas, and you'll have a great time. Israelis are notoriously helpful and you will no doubt have 2 or 3 people jump in to help you read a menu, figure out directions, get you to the right bus, etc.

Central Illinois
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6. Re: First time in Israel- Language issues?

Reading your question, I was reminded of our trip last May. We weren't sure about parking, and went up to some other people to see if they could give us information, politely asking "Do you speak English?" The guys laughed and said, "You really don't have to ask that question in Israel"!

Chiclayo, Peru
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7. Re: First time in Israel- Language issues?

Actually a higher percentage of the population of Israel speaks English than in New York City. You'll have no problems whatsoever. But why are you unsure about a trip to Jerusalem? You'd be crazy not to go there if you're going to Israel for the first time.

wj1
Los Angeles, CA
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8. Re: First time in Israel- Language issues?

Chris5031:

I haven't been to Israel yet though we will be arriving there next week.

Much to my chagrin, I am a typical American and only know English. But it hasn't stopped me from traveling independenty all over the world--even to places where English is far less prevalent than it appears to be in Israel. Just learn the Hebrew words for hello, goodbye, please, thank you, coffee and bathroom. That and a smile will get you everything you need. :)

And I can say that some of my favorite travel experiences have been communicating with someone with whom you don't share any language abilities eg. Vietnamese. The smiles when communication has been achieved is priceless.

Don't worry about the lanugage and don't constantly worry about being "ribbed off" because you don't know the language. I'm sure you will have a great time.

Haifa, Israel
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9. Re: First time in Israel- Language issues?

Oreet you are correct.

I checked it and apparently the legal statues of the English language is not very clear. the language was given official statues in some laws but it is very minor one and the supreme court officially recognized only Hebrew and Arabic.

Well any way even though it's not an official language De Jure it is one of the official languages De Facto.

any way thx for your comment!

Elad.

Los Angeles
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10. Re: First time in Israel- Language issues?

Having someone say they don't speak English is the exception rather than the rule. However, be advised that even in restaurants with English menus where you get a bill in English if you use a credit card often when the receipt comes for you to sign it is all in Hebrew. Don't be concerned. Just make sure the total which is on the final line is correct and then sign the first line....the second is usually for your phone number. You can also ask the staff for help. Just tell them you don't read Hebrew. They are great about it.