Visiting Shuk Hacarmel: Hebrew Essentials

You’re in Israel and finally decided to go to “Shuk Hacarmel” שוק הכרמל, the central marketplace of Tel aviv. It has Everything: fruit, vegetables, cheese, clothes, spices and food stands ranging from savory Falafel and Burekas, to sweet Halva and freshly squeezed orange juice. You’ll find local merchandise like bracelets with the Star of David, T-shirts with political slogans and hats to protect you from the scorching Israeli sun. In order to navigate in this bustling and busy market, here’s some basic vocabulary you must know:

How much does this cost? כמה זה עולה (kah-mah zeh oh-leh)
First thing’s first: In order to survive in a Shuk Hacarmel, you must ask how much something costs before you decide whether you want it or not. This could save you a lot of inconvenience and time, and mainly introduce you to the ever elusive art of bargaining. Everyone knows Israelis love to bargain (for better or for worse) but the marketplace is THE place to bargain – so don’t worry, it doesn’t come across as rude. Especially if you’re a tourist, the vendor will probably give you a higher price than what they expect you to pay. Don’t be afraid, ask for a discount, especially when you buy more than one item.

It’s too expensive זה יקר מדי (zeh yah-kahr mee-dahy)
Following our first piece of advice, don’t feel shy to say something is too expensive! Say it with a smile and be sure the vendor will lower the price for you. This works better with clothes, merchandise and gifts, not things that have a set price (fruit, vegetables, spices) written on a small sign next to them. After you both agree on a price you can settle the deal with the word סבבה (sah-bah-bah) which means: okay\fine\great\deal.

Money כסף (keh-sehf)
Numbers in Hebrew are something you’d really like to be familiar with before stepping into the market. The currency in Hebrew is ILS שקל (sheh-kehl), and it is the equivalent of one quarter of a USD/EUR. Let’s go over some basics together:

Twenty Shekels עשרים שקל (ehs-reem she-kehl)
Fifty Shekels חמישים שקל (chah-mee-sheem she-kehl)
A Hundred Shekels מאה שקל (meh-ah sheh-kehl)

The plural form of Shekel is שקלים (shkah-leem), but in everyday Hebrew after the number 10 we switch back to the singular form: שקל. That’s why we say “מאה שקל”.

Thank you very much תודה רבה (toh-dah rah-bah)
It’s true that in Hebrew we hardly say please, but we always say thank you! So if you want to blend in, throw a “תודה רבה” into the air when you leave a food stand or even a restaurant. Some other useful greetings are “Excuse me” סליחה (slee-chah), “Hello” שלום (shah-lohm) and “You’re Welcome” אין בעד מה (ehn beh-ahd mah). Generally speaking, we Israelis are very direct when we ask for things and it’s something to get used to when you visit. But remember, when using a warm tone and friendly eye contact – it’s never considered rude.

That’s it, you are now pretty much equipped to handle Shuk Hacarmel… Good luck בהצלחה (beh-hats-lah-chah), and most importantly, have fun!

Shalom, !

Shalom, !