Learning Patience for Israeli Chutzpah

Chutzpah is a Hebrew word commonly used around the world, but in Israel its meaning is slightly different.

By Ayala Shalmayev |
In Israel, chutzpah means something a little different, a little more aggressive.
Photo: Illustration – Hadas Parush/Flash90

What chutzpah! This Hebrew word is so commonly known and used abroad that it can even be found in English dictionaries. The thing is, in English it is often used in a somewhat positive way to denote extreme self-confidence or audacity. 

In Israel, where the word is used most often, a more fitting translation would be “insolence.”

It is often said that Israelis speak with chutzpah, simply saying whatever is on their minds without regard for the feelings of others or the consequences of their words. No doubt those of our readers who have visited the Land have experienced this.

This behavior is often attributed to the fact that life here is very fast-paced. People don’t have time to mince words. They can’t be bothered to talk around a subject. 

The counter to Israeli chutzpah is savlanut, patience. 

I had a notable run-in with Israeli chutzpah and a lack of savlanut while recently shopping at the local supermarket.

As noted, life here is often hectic, especially when shopping for the Shabbat. People just want to get through the check-out as quickly as possible.

And so it was that while I was in the middle of checking out, the customer behind me was shoving her items under the cashier’s nose to find out the prices. 

Ironically, this made the entire process take even more time, since he then had to painstakingly delete her items from my order.

When my groceries were finally bagged and I was presented with a credit card slip to sign, the woman behind me could wait no longer, grabbed the pen, and signed it herself!

“Sorry, but this is my credit card, only I can sign for it,” I said. To which she replied with a smile: “Oh, it doesn’t matter, they just want to see a scribble anyway.” 

Only in Israel!


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