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.