Brenda Stein Dzaldov
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Me, my daughter and Israeli army Heblish

When learning the army's lingo is a labor of love

My daughter is at the end of her army service in Israel as a Chayelet Bodedah (a female lone soldier). After 2+ years of absorption, gius (enlistment), tironut (basic training), miktzim (running shooting drills), and quite a few gimilim (days off sick), my 22-year-old daughter is going on chafshash (the last month before she is released). Chafshash is a far cry from the days in tironut, when she was tzaira (a young one), and when she had sha tash (one hour a day to speak on the phone, of which only minutes were allocated to me). Now, she is a month away from finishing the army. Yesterday, the soldiers on her base had a Yom Horim (parent’s day). That’s when the soldier’s parents come to visit base, bring food, and see some of the work the soldiers are doing on base.

She mentioned the Yom Horim in passing, and I felt bad that, once again, my husband and I couldn’t be there with her. She said it was no problem. She was happy because she just had her last shmira (guard duty) forever and was looking forward to her chamshush (Thursday, Friday and Shabbat off)!

So, this is the situation. I’m a Canadian mom, talking to my Israeli Canadian daughter in this Army Hebrew infused English conversation. However, I can proudly say that I am now very comfortable in Israeli Army Heblish.

I know that a mem-mem and a mem-peh are both way above her in rank in the army. I don’t know which is which, but I’m very sure she has to do what they say. And even more so, if the mifakdet has a falafel on his or her uniform, it’s a big deal. More falafels, more of a big deal. When the day came that my daughter became a sammal (sergeant), that was truly unimportant. According to my daughter, everyone gets it who stays in the army a certain amount of time. This was yet another lost opportunity to brag about my chayelet (I mean, my sammal).

When she goes to the bikur-rofeh (doctor’s office), it means she isn’t feeling well. It probably means gimilim (sick days off base), but we can’t be sure. For the first year, I thought gimilim meant three days off (because gimmel is the third letter in the Hebrew alphabet — makes sense, right?) but then one time she got two gimilim, which I thought was a mistake — but it wasn’t. A trip to the doctor might also mean bettim (which are sick days on base) or even p’tor naalayim (that’s when you’re exempt from wearing army boots because your toe hurts). No matter — given the number of infections, blood tests, viruses, antibiotics, sore limbs and IVs she’s had this year, I can be pretty sure a visit to the bikur rofeh is not going to turn out too well.

When my husband and I went to Israel for five days in March 2016 for her tekes (ceremony) after her tironut, she was told that she had regilah (a week off of the army for no reason). During that time, I found out about her madim aleph and bet (two different army uniforms for two different purposes that I still don’t understand, but they need to be washed a lot), and her kumtah (beret), which is important and can’t fall out of the button on the top of her shirt, but does. She also needed her choger (Army ID) wherever she went. Sometimes I call her kumtah a choger by mistake — but it’s truly like shooting in the dark — I take a chance with all these new words and hope for the best. Sometimes I’m right, sometimes I’m not.

Now, I start conversations using Israeli Army Heblish too. I ask her how she spent her yom siddurium (her day to get things in order — not her day to read the siddur — who would think that?). She’s a madrichat chir (shooting instructor), which means she teaches soldiers to shoot guns. I check in on her time at the mitvach (shooting range) and if she taught a lesson on the mag (a great big gun). When I ask if all her training now means she can protect herself, she tells me, “No — if anything really happens, I would get a real chayel.” So, now I also know she’s not a “real” chayel!

I mispronounce lots of words, and she corrects me. But we speak Israeli Army Heblish together and it makes me feel closer to her. I’m doing my best. It’s not an easy language to master. I’m not sure how useful my working knowledge of Israeli Army Heblish will be once she’s finished the army.  For instance, I wonder if anyone will ever talk about gimilim or chamshush again — but for the last two years, it’s been pretty important!

I know my own learning will continue as she leaves the army on October 15. She’s about to start her life in Israel after the army, and I will continue to learn whichever new words are important to her. These new words represent her life — and I want to be as much a part of her ever-changing life in Israel as a Canadian mom can be.

About the Author
Brenda holds a PhD from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education/University of Toronto, where she is an instructor specializing in literacy education, special education and well-being, and educational psychology. She is an educational consultant who has published many books and articles focusing on understanding and improving teacher and student achievement. You can visit her website at Her three children all grew up in Toronto and have taken different paths as they live Jewishly in the world.
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