aliyah—From the Hebrew verb “to go up,” aliyah is used to refer to people moving to Israel. It is also used to describe a wave of immigration to Palestine or Israel, as in the First Aliyah or the Russian Aliyah.
Ashkenazi—The name for the Jews from most of Europe (Ashkenazim in the plural). The Ashkenazim built communities throughout central and eastern Europe, developing their own set of religious and cultural traditions and even creating their own language, Yiddish.
Biluim—Bilu is an acronym for the Hebrew phrase “House of Jacob, let us go up.” Biluim, the plural of Bilu, refers to a group of Russian students who immigrated to Palestine during the First Aliyah.
Brit Shalom—Hebrew for “The Covenant of Peace,” Brit Shalom was a group of intellectuals in Palestine founded in 1925 to promote peace between Jews and Arabs. They believed peace would come if the Jews abandoned their quest for national sovereignty.
conceptzia—A Hebrew word based on the English “conception,” conceptzia was created to refer to Israel’s cockiness and sense of invincibility in the years between the 1967 Six-Day War and the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
Eretz Israel—Hebrew for “The Land of Israel.”
Fedayeen—Arabic for “self-sacrificers,” fedayeen is a term commonly used to refer to guerrilla fighters who attacked Israelis mostly in the 1950s. Self-described freedom fighters, they crossed the Jordanian and Egyptian borders to attack Israeli villages and towns.
Fellahin—Arabic for “farmers” or “laborers.”
Gush Emunim—Hebrew for “The Bloc of the Faithful,” Gush Emunim was a political movement created in 1974 centered around building settlements in the post-1967 territories.
ha’avarah—Hebrew for “transfer,” ha’avarah refers to the Transfer Agreement negotiated between Chaim Arlosoroff and the Nazis that allowed Jews leaving Germany to retain their assets through a complex arrangement with the German government.
Haganah—Hebrew for “The Defense,” the Haganah was created in 1921 by Yishuv leaders to protect Jewish farms and villages by preventing and repelling Arab attacks. With time, it would develop into the Israel Defense Forces.
Halakhah—A term for “Jewish law.”
Hamtanah—Hebrew for “the waiting period,” it refers to the three weeks prior to the June 1967 Six-Day War, during which Israel and its leadership knew that another war with its Arab neighbors was imminent. The country prepared for the worst, converting hotels into hospitals and parks into mass graves.
Hanukkah—The Jewish holiday that commemorates the Maccabees’ successful revolt against Greek rule in 164 BCE. The holiday lasts for eight days and is celebrated most notably by lighting a menorah.
Haredim—Hebrew for “tremblers,” Haredim is the name commonly used for ultra-Orthodox Jews. Haredim have typically been opposed to or ambivalent toward the Jewish state and are now a major political and economic force in Israel.
Hashomer—Hebrew for “The Watchman,” Hashomer was the Yishuv’s first organized defense group created to protect Jews and their villages.
Hasid—From the Hebrew for Hesed, “loving-kindness,” a Hasid is a member of an ultra-Orthodox sect of Judaism that was founded in the eighteenth century in eastern Europe.
Haskalah—The Jewish Enlightenment, the Haskalah, was active from the late eighteenth century to the late nineteenth century in western Europe. Designed to apply Enlightenment values and ideas to Judaism and to integrate the Jews into secular society, the movement had a profound influence on many early Zionist thinkers.
Hatikvah—Hebrew for “The Hope,” “Hatikvah” is the name of Israel’s national anthem. It was written in 1878.
Herut—Hebrew for “Freedom,” Herut was the name of Menachem Begin’s political party. Established in 1948, the party eventually merged with others and became the Likud Party.
Histadrut—The Yishuv’s primary workers’ union. It later became a powerful political force in Israel.
Hovevei Zion—Hebrew for “Lovers of Zion,” Hovevei Zion was one of the first organizations in Europe that fostered Jewish immigration to Palestine. It brought idealistic eastern European Jews to Palestine during the First Aliyah.
intifada—Arabic for “shaking off,” intifada refers to periods of attacks on Israel, primarily by Palestinians from the territories Israel occupied in 1967. The First Intifada took place from 1987 to 1991, while the Second Intifada lasted from 2000 to 2004.
Irgun—Irgun Tsva’i Leumi, the National Military Organization, was an underground fighting group commonly called the Irgun. It was also known by its Hebrew acronym, Etzel. Founded in 1931, the Irgun was led by Haganah fighters who were deeply influenced by Jabotinsky’s ideology and were frustrated by the Haganah’s policy of restraint. The Irgun functioned as a separate fighting force until the creation of the IDF during the War of Independence.
kibbutz—A kibbutz (plural—kibbutzim) is the name for a collective community originally based largely on socialist ideals and rooted in agricultural work. The kibbutz became an iconic Israeli institution in the state’s first decades. While the kibbutz flourished, it never accounted for more than 7 percent of the population.
kippah—Hebrew for “skullcap,” traditionally worn by Jewish men.
Knesset—The Israeli parliament, the Knesset, is composed of 120 seats and uses the same system of proportional representation that the Zionist congresses had employed. The first Knesset was elected in 1949.
Kotel—Hebrew for “wall,” it is a reference to the Western Wall or Wailing Wall, the only remnant of the Second Temple. It has become a sacred site to Jews as well as a battleground for competing religious ideologies.
Kristallnacht—A German word that approximates “The Night of Broken Glass,” Kristallnacht was a pogrom against Jews in Germany and Austria on November 9 to 10, 1938. Jewish businesses and synagogues were burned and destroyed and many Jews were killed or injured.
Lechi—An acronym of Lochamei Cherut Yisrael (“Warriors for the Freedom of Israel”), Lechi was an underground militia founded in 1940 by Avraham Stern. Originally a member of the Irgun, Stern broke off and founded his own fighting group.
Likud—Hebrew for “the Consolidation,” Likud is a political party founded by Menachem Begin and leaders of several other right-wing parties in 1973. In 1977, Likud became Israel’s ruling party for the first time under Begin.
ma’abarot—Transit camps, ma’abarot were temporary housing provided for the new immigrants who flooded the country after the Independence War. They were created to alleviate the terrible conditions in the immigrant camps until the state could provide “real” housing, but soon, the conditions in the ma’abarot were just as bad.
ma’apilim—Ma’apilim was the Hebrew name given to illegal immigrants who came to the Yishuv when immigration was severely limited during the British Mandate. Some of the ma’apilim were successful while others were caught by the British and put in detainee camps.
mamlachtiyut—Translated most closely as “statism” or “state consciousness,” mamlachtiyut was the term for David Ben-Gurion’s campaign to have the state be central to Israeli culture and policy.
Mapai—The acronym for the Hebrew of “Workers’ Party of the Land of Israel,” Mapai was Israel’s secular Left party until it merged with another small left-leaning party and became the Israeli Labor Party in 1968. Mapai and then Labor were the ruling political parties from 1948 until 1977.
Mizrachi—Term for Jews who resided in the Orient (plural—Mizrachim), mostly in North Africa and the Middle East, after the Romans expelled the Jews from Judea. Over the centuries, they developed unique religious and cultural traditions.
moshav—Hebrew for “village” or “settlement,” a moshav (plural—moshavim) is a cooperative rural Israeli town in an agricultural area. Many moshavim were established during the early aliyot.
Mossad—Literally, “the Institute,” the Mossad is Israel’s national intelligence agency.
Nakba—Arabic for “the Catastrophe,” Nakba was the name given to the 1948 War of Independence by Palestine’s Arabs.
Palmach—Acronym for Hebrew words that mean “strike force,” the Palmach was created in 1941 as an elite unit within the Haganah. Trained by British forces, the Palmach was originally created to prepare for the possibility of a German invasion in Palestine. It consisted of many of the Yishuv’s best fighters.
Poalei Zion—Poalei Zion, or “Workers of Zion,” was a movement of Marxist-Zionist workers established throughout eastern Europe at the turn of the twentieth century.
Saison—French for “season,” the Saison, also called the Hunting Season, refers to a period between November 1944 and March 1945 in which elite forces from the Haganah searched out Irgun and Lechi members and handed them over to the British.
Sephardi—Hebrew for “Spaniard,” Sephardi (plural—Sephardim) refer to Jews who settled in Iberia and the Spanish Diaspora after the Roman exile. There, they established their own communities, developing their own set of religious and cultural traditions.
Shas—From an acronym for a Hebrew verse that translates to “the Sephardi Guards,” Shas is the name of a political party founded in 1984. Its leader, Rav Ovadia Yosef, was a former Sephardi chief rabbi of Israel who created Shas to represent Israel’s Mizrachi population.
Shehecheyanu—Hebrew for “who has given us life,” shehecheyanu is a Jewish blessing commonly said at life-transforming moments. The blessing recognizes the grandness of the moment and gives thanks to God for having kept us alive to reach that point.
Shoah—A biblical term from the Book of Zephaniah that means “calamity,” shoah is the Hebrew word used for the Holocaust.
shofar—A ram’s horn, a shofar is an ancient instrument sounded in synagogue on Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) and at the conclusion of Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement).
Sinai (Mount)—Mount Sinai is the place at which the Bible says the Torah was revealed by God to the Jewish people.
shtetl—A Yiddish term for a small village or town with a large Jewish population, found primarily in eastern and central Europe prior to World War II.
Talmud—The central text of Rabbinic Judaism. Composed approximately 200 CE to 500 CE by Jewish communities in Babylonian exile, the Talmud is the most important Jewish postbiblical text and is still the primary religious text studied by traditional Jews around the world.
Torah—The traditional Jewish term for the Five Books of Moses, from Genesis through Deuteronomy. The Torah tells the story of the birth of the Jewish people and their journey from Egyptian slavery toward the Promised Land.
yeshiva—The central institution of learning for religious Jewish men, in which the mainstay of the curriculum is the Babylonian Talmud.
Yiddish—Yiddish, mainly a fusion of German, Hebrew, and Aramaic, is a language created by Ashkenazi Jews. Many Jews who immigrated to Palestine, including Zionism’s and Israel’s greatest leaders, spoke Yiddish as their native tongue.
Yishuv—Hebrew for “area of settlement,” Yishuv is commonly used for the prestate Jewish community in Palestine. The Yishuv, with its own government and army, eventually became the State of Israel.
Yom Kippur—The Day of Atonement is the holiest day of the year in the Jewish calendar. Focused on repentance and self-examination, the holiday is usually observed by a twenty-five-hour fast and a day of worship in synagogue.