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"Why Don't I Have Any Israeli Friends?"

We Israelis are known for our warmth. But one of the biggest questions we get from our students is why they don't have any Israeli friends? The solution is straightforward. Dead simple, actually.

Let's kick this off with a story. Last Friday. A beach in Tel Aviv. Two Israeli girls are hanging out with a recent immigrant from England. They're chatting with her in English. Mid-conversation, one of them says to her friend, in Hebrew: "Wow, I don't get it. She lives in this country and doesn't speak Hebrew?" Sure, that comment may sting a bit and isn't exactly nice, but the truth? She's spot on.

Ever since its establishment, Israel has been a country of immigration and absorption, opening its doors to new immigrants from all over the world. But something's changed over the past twenty years. In the past, new immigrants would make sure to learn Hebrew, and you'd rarely find new immigrants who didn't speak it. But lately, you see more and more newcomers choosing to live here, thinking they can get by with English, Russian, or French.

The landscape here has also somewhat transformed. Most restaurants have English menus, the street signs have switched to English, and even the announcements at the train station occasionally declare the station name in English. But have we Israelis changed? That's where we hit the crux of the matter.

Every newcomer should remember that the mother tongue of most of us is Hebrew and, for some of us, Arabic. Our lives here in Tel Aviv and in the country are conducted in Hebrew. When we go out for coffee or for a beer – we'd rather converse in Hebrew. Not to mention family dinners, where Hebrew is, undoubtedly, the language of choice.

Hebrew, speak Hebrew!

Sure, we're welcoming and will speak English, and we might even say often that we enjoy speaking English – but at the end of the day, we'd rather chat in Hebrew. Naturally, when choosing our friends, especially new ones, we'd prefer those who can integrate into our lives.

Those who can come to our family dinners and chat with our nieces and nephews; those who, when we sit with our other friends at the beach or the pub, won't make us switch to English.

The bottom line – want Israeli friends? Just chat with them in Hebrew. And if you're not yet at the conversational Hebrew stage, get a move on – join UAB. We promise that within 2-3 courses, you'll have Israeli friends.

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