Israeli Body Language: A Guide | Masa Israel

Journey Blog

Israeli Body Language: A Guide

Posted March 8th, 2012
Israelis are the masters of body language.  With the movement of a hand, the flick of the wrist, or the jutting of a chin they can communicate a whole series of complex emotions without saying a word. Pay attention to those hand gestures because science has proven there is more to body language than meets the eye. Here is a short guide for all those moments when you think you know what's going on, but really, you have no idea.
Gesture: Hand out in a pinched formation
It could mean: Look what I have here
What it really means: Wait one second, hold on, shut up, I don't care, I'm busy, stand there a little longer and feel stupid, can't you see you idiot I am in the middle of something way more important than you which is this cell phone conversation with my friend about the amount of cous-cous I ate last night. AKA rega.
Gesture:  Both hands in pinched formation
It could mean: Really rega
What it really means: I am speaking about something very specific.  Pay attention to these words coming out of my mouth.
Gesture:  Hand to side of the head followed by twist of the hand
It could mean:  I'm screwy
What it really means: You're screwy, I can't believe you are this stupid, what is wrong with you, I am an angry taxi driver who is sick of arguing with tourists who don't know how to argue and I want to rip you off and then get you out of my taxi as fast as possible.
Gesture: Biting of lower lip and chin jut-out. 
It could mean: I feel a little bad about this situation that just happened to you.
What it really means: I don't feel bad for you at all. This is life.
Gesture:  Hand over heart
It could mean: I feel so much love for you in this moment.
What it really means:  How could you offer so little money for my beautiful nargila. (which is real silver for this very very low price that I give you and only you since you are now my friend)  I have 17 children and a sick mother. You want to kill me?! You're breaking my heart.
What this really means:  You have no idea how to bargain.  Good luck with me sucker.
Gesture: Hands clasped together in a prayer formation and shaken forward 3 times
It could mean:  What I am saying is a prayer.
What it really means: Please let us stop being so Israeli for one second and reach an agreement.
Gesture/Comment: Shaking of head and muttering "why, why, why."
It could mean:  Why?
What it really means: It's pretty incredible what I just said, no?  
Want to become an expert in Israeli body language? Consider spending a few months in Israel interning, studying, or volunteering and you'll be communicating like a local in no time!
Jewish Agency for Israel