Last updated July 20th 2014
One of the biggest challenges I faced when moving to Israel was learning Hebrew. I knew some Hebrew from my studies at the University of Texas, but trying to become fluent in the language was quite difficult for me. Although I now speak Hebrew at a high level, I have come to learn recently that some words from English just don’t translate into Hebrew….
Several months ago Moshe and I went the mall in a city called Kiryat Ono not far from where we live. We walked into the mall, and I realized that I didn’t have any cash on me so we quickly found an ATM inside. I went up to the ATM and entered my PIN only to have the ATM come back and say that the PIN was invalid. I tried entering the PIN again, but it still didn’t work. I turned to Moshe and said, “I think I forgot it.” Moshe looked at me in shock because I have had the same credit card and PIN since I made Aliyah 4.5 years ago.
“Let’s go to another bank’s ATM,” Moshe said. We walked outside and saw across the street two different banks with ATM’s. I went to the first one, and this time switched two digits, but still it didn’t work. Moshe’s patience was growing thin; “I think I remember it now,” I told Moshe, but it was still showing up as invalid. “Let’s try one more ATM,” Moshe said. We walked a few meters to the next bank, and again no luck. What neither Moshe nor I realized though is if you enter your PIN incorrectly 3 times, the ATM will swallow your card, and guess what? That is exactly what happened.
Moshe was beside himself. “How do you forgot your code?” he asked me. “I don’t know,” I said. “I just forgot.” Moshe explained to me that we would have to come back the next day (as the bank was already closed), and I would have to try to get my card back.
So the next day Moshe and I drove back to Kiryat Ono. Moshe decided to wait in the car while I went in to explain my story and try to retrieve my card. I walked into the bank of the ATM that had swallowed my card. I told the bank teller that I was a new immigrant, and then I said confidently in Hebrew “שכחתי הפין שלי,” thinking that I had told her I had forgotten my PIN. The bank teller nicely smiled and nodded and proceeded to tell me that I would need to get an approval from my bank for her to release the card. I then called my bank, and they faxed over the approval within about 15 minutes.
I triumphantly walked out of the bank back to the car where Moshe was sitting. “I got it back!” I explained. “That’s great. What did you tell her?” Moshe asked. I told Moshe what I had said in Hebrew, and he immediately burst into uncontrolled laughter. “What? What?” I said. “Rach,” Moshe managed in between his fit of laughter, “Do you know what פין means?” “Of course,” I said. “It means my bank code.”
As it would turn out, that is not the meaning of the word. The actual meaning of the Hebrew word is a certain part of the male anatomy. So, yes. I told the bank teller that I had forgotten my ________ (insert male anatomy here).
Part of being a new immigrant is struggling with learning the native language. Sometimes it can be frustrating and daunting, but many times, it makes for a good laugh.