Fly me le'Yisrael!

By now there are quite a few computer disks that teach Hebrew grammar and interactive programs aimed at introducing users to Israel.

hebrew disk 88 (photo credit: )
hebrew disk 88
(photo credit: )
My Israel Hebrew Adventure, a CD-ROM in English and Hebrew by Davka Corporation (, distributed in Israel by Dekel Software (02-9912718), for Windows 98 and up or Mac with OS 10.8 or better, for ages eight through adult, $49.95 or shekel equivalent. Rating: **** 1/2 By now there are quite a few computer disks that teach Hebrew grammar and interactive programs aimed at introducing users to Israel. But there are not many - certainly not many that do it successfully - combining the study of Hebrew usage with an introduction to modern Israel. This is the best of them, and it will appeal to children and adults, both Jewish and non-Jewish. It doesn't even have to be installed on your hard disk. The story begins with a rather sad tale: Your eccentric Uncle Chaim has died, and he sent you a letter and package that arrive after his funeral. You click to open the envelope and learn that he loves you and your family and adored Israel and Hebrew all his life. He has sent you and the whole family free tickets for an all-expenses-paid trip to the Holy Land, along with a map, itinerary, Hebrew/English dictionary, Hebrew lessons and exercises. Such an unforgettable visit, he wrote, will ensure that you remember not only your Jewish homeland but also your dear departed uncle for many years to come. You will be accompanied on your trip by his close friend, Yossef Green, an elderly but energetic man with white hair and beard, a black kippa and (unfortunately for us anti-smoking people) an unlit pipe in his mouth. (The pipe doesn't appear on the box cover, but I don't understand why this accessory was superfluously added to the game, apparently to make your guide look more authoritative. The Davka Corporation - in Chicago, where smoking is a no-no, should have known better.) You pack, rush to the airport, fly (viewing a nice aerial photo of the coast of Israel) and land, arriving at Ben-Gurion Airport's impressive Terminal 3. All the while, you are learning Hebrew - but a minimum requirement for making use of the disk is the ability to read the alphabet and put the letters together with the vowels. There are four sections, each with numerous individual lessons, which use colorful photos, animation, games and special effects, such as the ability to view large photos by dragging them with your cursor from side to side and examining details by clicking on a magnifying glass. Eleven Israeli postcards can be clicked and viewed close up. And when you move the cursor over the Kinneret, you create concentric circles as if you are tossing pebbles into it. Except for the games, the action is based on a "Director" program that creates sophisticated versions of PowerPoint presentations. And the photos show you not only pristine nature and tourist sites, but also real Israelis in the Mahaneh Yehuda shuk and elsewhere. While touring Israel from one end to another, you study nouns, masculine and feminine usage, singular and plural, dual endings, pronouns, adjectives, adverbs, conjunctions, prepositions and possession - as well as all the tenses. You painlessly learn more than 500 Hebrew words, all of which are clickable to translate and sound out and are arranged alphabetically or by subject. Tourist sites, such as the cable car going up to Masada, are used to move words as possible choices for answering questions. I was rather surprised and upset to see during one activity a series of advertisements for real soft drinks and imported beer that are popular here. But I was informed that Davka was not paid for this display, and that it was just a way to show authentic Israel. Another small shortcoming is that several outdated Hebrew words such as tuvin (goods), kevuda (luggage) and mimraot (runways) are used, but as the game is meant partly to communicate with Israelis during a visit, I can't imagine a local taxi driver who would understand these. If you earn enough points (you also get a grade for each lesson, from F to A+) by the end of the game, Yossef Green announces a surprise. Your dear departed Uncle Chaim left a magnificent Jerusalem mansion (you can click three different ways to examine the furniture) where you can "stay" whenever you are here! While not many people have an eccentric uncle to give them a free trip to Israel, this game is very worthwhile playing and learning from, and it could be enough to induce the "graduates" of the grammar course to make the journey even at their own expense.