When this pandemic started, many of my child-free friends thought this could be a great opportunity to learn something new — a new hobby, or a new language.
For me as a parent, however, that didn’t seem like an option. Parenting during a pandemic, as we all very well know, means you have zero free time, and that’s especially true if you’re also trying to hold down a job. This often means, unfortunately, there’s very little time for supervising or participating in your kids’ Hebrew school education — and a lot more screentime for them while we try to get work done.
Luckily, there is a way to make lemonade out of this pandemic lemon. Sort of. Yeah, we’re here to suggest you use some of your kids’ beloved screentime to sneakily expose your kids to Hebrew language and culture with some quality, age-appropriate Israeli TV programming.
Will it work? We sure hope so! Will it make you feel a tiny bit better about yourself and this entire situation? That we can guarantee! And hey, if you do actually have some free time (it’s almost a long weekend, heyyy), this is also a good opportunity to watch with your kids and refresh your own Hebrew vocabulary too!
Hebrew Shows for Toddlers & Young Kids
Want fun songs and simple animations? Israel’s Baby Channel has many of these on offer, from Hebrew classics to Hebrew versions of iconic American kids’ tunes like “The Itsy Bitsy Spider.” Follow them on YouTube.
Hebrew for “Nice Butterfly” — which was also a famous kids’ book — this was my favorite show growing up. This show’s co-hosts are a group of adorable puppets: Uza the bird, Batz the turtle, Shabi the snail, and Nuli the chick. The show combines stories, fun claymations, and of course, lovely songs. Each episode has a theme and I’m a particular fan of the holiday-centric ones: the familiar Judaica and the repetition of the holiday’s name will be particularly helpful for kids with limited Hebrew knowledge.
Bli Sodot, “No Secrets” in Hebrew, is an ’80s show all about familiarizing kids with letters and words and getting them to read. The opening song for the show ends with the famous tagline — “Ma kore? Ani kore!” (“What is happening? I am reading!”) It features stop-motion animations and fun characters played by its four hosts.
Since each episode of Bli Sodot focuses on just a few letters and words, it’s easy for kids to fill in the blanks, even if they don’t speak Hebrew. You can find the full first season on YouTube.
Yup, that’s Sesame Street in Hebrew. You may remember it from your own Hebrew school days, and I’m happy to say that so many Rechov Sumsum episodes are now on YouTube!
Here, you will find familiar characters like Bert and Ernie — who, in Hebrew, are Bentz and Arik — as well as Kippy Kipod, an adorable porcupine, and Moishe Oofnik, Oscar the Grouch’s Israeli cousin. You can find the full first season on YouTube.
Kofiko is a character that generations of Israeli children have grown up with, in various iterations — be it in the original books by prolific Israeli children’s writer Tamar Bornstein-Lazar, in the live-action series from the 1990s, or the animated adaptation of the 2000s.
Kofiko is a monkey (the Hebrew word for monkey is kof) who lives with the Lazar family in the Israeli city of Petach Tikva. He gets into a lot of mischief and shenanigans, but he is ultimately a total sweetheart. You can watch the new and old episodes of Kofiko on the Kofiko YouTube channel.
That’s right, your favorite Disney shows are available for streaming in Hebrew! Find The Mickey Mouse Club annoying? At least you will be exposing your kids to some Hebrew vocab! It’s all on the Disney Junior Israel YouTube channel; they also have Hebrew versions of PJ Masks and, of course, Elena of Avalor:
Shows for older kids and teens:
These subtitled shows, while risque at times, are generally very fun to watch as a family! It’s a good opportunity to enjoy truly wonderful TV, have family time, and get exposed to Hebrew. A win-win for all.
If your family loves Brooklyn 99, this Israeli police comedy will delight you, too! HaShoter Hatov, Hebrew for “The Good Cop,” is a fabulously funny and human show about an Israeli policeman who comes from a family of petty criminals. It’s available to stream on Netflix.
Longing for some drama? The Israeli smash-hit Israeli drama about an ultra-Orthodox family in Jerusalem is actually pretty family-friendly — there’s no sex or nudity or violence involved. It’s available to stream on Netflix.
The Baker and the Beauty
Do you love watching romance as a family? Some telenovelas, perhaps? The Baker and the Beauty, which just got an adaptation for ABC, is a fabulous Cinderella story about an Israeli baker from a Jewish Yemenite family who falls in love with an international supermodel. It is truly a delightful watch, available to stream on Prime.
Now, tzfiyah mehana — enjoy the show!