An Idiot’s Guide to ‘Yiyeh B’seder’

Shalom from Tel Aviv, people-at the time this article was written, the Prime Minister is on his way out, Iran is developing nuclear weapons, and the price of falafel just went up a shekel. In other words, another week in the Middle East. WHAT ELSE CAN GO WRONG???

Ahhh….but that’s just it. Allow me to answer that question with a cultural lesson. Without further ado, I’d like to introduce our national slogan. Two words greater than the sum of their parts, guaranteed to elicit no reaction at all (or to possibly make you laugh or cringe for reasons to be explained later.) Add this pair to the great duos throughout history: Batman and Robin, Simon and Garfunkel, and chumus and pita. Without further ado, I give you: Yiyeh and b’seder.

Translated as “it will be ok”, yiyeh b’seder is Israel’s version of Frank Costanza’s “SERENITY NOW!”, an answer to whatever might have just gone wrong, and a “don’t worry, be happy” without the “be happy”. People, there is no situation yiyeh b’seder can’t handle. It’s the Economica of phrases.

“What? Rover just projectile vomited on my khakis?
YIYEH B’SEDEEEEEEEEEEER!!!!” Get it?

Try it yourself, elongating the last syllable (extra points awarded for a dismissive tone, as if whatever just happened didn’t just happen.)

Upon immigrating to Israel, let’s just say it took a bit of time to figure this phrase out. For every minor daily annoyance like Rover’s intestinal problems addressed with a yiyeh b’seder, it seemed that a more significant issue was being handled the same way. Consider this actual exchange with my roommate:

Benji: “I read in the paper that the Arabs are preparing for war.”
Roommate: “Ahhhh, don’t woh-ree, nah-theeng will heh-pen.”
B: “You don’t think so? What about all the rhetoric from Iran?”
R: “Dey have been saying dat for years.”
B: “And now they’re building a bomb!”
R: “So waht?”
B: “So then they nuke us! Kablooey!”
R: “So they nuke us! Yiyeh b’seder!”

And there it was, the mother of all yiyeh b’seders. I felt like I had just watched Wilt Chamberlain score 100 points in a game. I’ll be telling my grandkids about that performance some day.

“NO PROH-BLEEEEEEM!”

So where in the world did our version of “don’t sweat the small stuff” come from? In a place where neighbors have been openly plotting your destruction since your independence and your country was born out of the ashes of the Holocaust, be advised that your people may develop a few societal personality quirks or defense mechanisms. Let’s just say that most things which aren’t REALLY BIG are small. If your internal organs remain intact and inside your body, expect whatever complaint you lodge to be answered with yiyeh b’seder.

To deal with this tendency to minimize everything or to “too easily keep things in perspective”, you better have a sense of humor. Seriously, has this phrase ever actually fixed anything? Are Israelis even listening to what you say before whipping it out?

“My dog just died.” Yiyeh b’seder!
“I just failed a test.” Yiyeh b’seder!
“The doctor says I’m a hermaphrodite…..say it, you bastard! I dare you!”

My advice is this: embrace this phrase, love it, laugh at it, and use it to your advantage. Next time my boss asks “Hey, Benji! Where deh hell eez deh report? Eet wahz due at 9 AM!”, I’ll consider my options.

American Benji: “Umm…I’m really sorry. I know it’s important. I’ll get right on that.”
New Israeli Benji: “Yiyeh b’sedeeeeeeeer!!!” (Said with glee while putting feet on desk and checking sports scores online.)

And if I end up getting fired, at least I know it will be ok.

Yiyeh b’seder and a hurricane!
Yiyeh b’seder and bad journalism!
Yiyeh b’seder near death!

I JUST CAN’T GET ENOUGH OF YIYEH B’SEDER!!!!!

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  1. yair October 14, 2008 at 5:55 am #

    Yiyeh beseder is excellent for current stock market crisis. we as Israelis have difficult time to believe that the world economics would be a disaster for long.
    Tel aviv stock ex went down by only 3% when all the world went by 20%…..

  2. Danielle October 14, 2008 at 7:53 am #

    Just found this out and thought you'd enjoy.. Remember that shanti banti Indian restaurant in Florentine called Sub Kooch Milega? Well in Hindi that translates to "One will get everything"-> their version of Yiyeh B'seder!

  3. Sue October 14, 2008 at 12:17 pm #

    Is it my old age, deja vu, or are you just getting lazy??? Haven’t I read this beofre????–(Or is it YOU????)–Senior moments aside, “yeheh beseder is just what we in the San Fernando Valley need– it’s “burning up” here–literally!…But we whom you know are all OK–THANK GOD FOR CEMENT!–PS- Hallie’s naming was awesome- Micha did a great job- and there was even “Ruach Elohim” (BIG BIG WINDS!!).. She is “Hila Tziporah” in Hebrew..Momma Sue

  4. The Blog Addict October 14, 2008 at 3:36 pm #

    Hi Benji…

    This is J. Carroll. Judaean, in Andrew Fretwell’s shikvah. I worked on the 8th floor for a bit, but I doubt you remember me…

    Mazal tov on your successful Aliyah.

    I LOVE your blog. So glad I found it.

  5. Mia October 15, 2008 at 2:10 am #

    The next step up after Yihye Beseder is Oy! Haval (equivalent of “sorry to hear that”) which usually comes with Yihye Beseder after it .
    But Yihye Beseder is part of a whole Israeli attitude. Another part of that, is the tone of voice used here.
    All American girls coming to Israel need to know that whiney voices considered cute in the US are a big no-no here.
    Also, if you have a soft gentle voice, people will shout MAAAA!
    Trust me I know all this from 1st hand experience.

  6. Benji Lovitt October 15, 2008 at 2:21 am #

    Yair, don’t we have to wait and see how things turn out before knowing if it was excellent? Like if things recover and nobody suffers too much, those people were right. But if it gets worse, then everyone was in denial. Perhaps I need to return to the lab and explore a formula involving yiyeh b’seder and time.

    Danielle, interesting-how’d you find that out? Gooooo, India-Israel relations!

    Sue, this is the Idiot’s Guide, a manifesto which draws from past experiences and entries. DID THEY CALL MARK TWAIN LAZY?!? DID THEY CALL AMOS OZ LAZY?!?! DID THEY…never mind.

    Hey “J”-I do remember you. Welcome to the party!

    Mia, I thought one step up was “lo kara klum”. This place is so complicated.

  7. Mia October 15, 2008 at 3:02 am #

    Ma Pitom. Lo kara klum, is one step down. You have rain dripping in your house, you had to fix a flat tier on the autostrada, in the rain and passing cars splashed mud puddles on you, and you almost got run over?
    Lo nora, lo kara klum.
    :-)

  8. Jack October 15, 2008 at 12:00 pm #

    DID THEY CALL MARK TWAIN LAZY?!?

    As a matter of fact I believe that they did.

  9. Batya October 15, 2008 at 3:17 pm #

    I love your phrase:”the Prime Minister is on his way out”

    It seems like a long, drawn out process, sort of like Arik Sharon’s coma, but we’re still stuck with Olmert.

  10. Anonymous October 16, 2008 at 10:30 am #

    I’m sorry if I’m too serious, but this reminded me of one of Yitzchak Rabin’s most famous speeches, which was about the dangers of the “Yiyhe beseder” culture. It was given at Israel’s military academy for high-ranking officers in 1992. Since his assassination (and maybe even before) this speech is being taught in schools and military courses. This is my (lousy) translation:

    “One of our most painful problems has a name, a last name and a first name. It is the phrase “Yiyhe beseder”. This phrase, which many of us in Israel hear daily, is unbearable. What lies beneath these two words is usually everything which is not “beseder”: arrogance and exaggerated self-confidence, power and domination, which should have no place in our lives. “Yiyhe beseder” is accompanying us a long time, years, and it is a symptom of an attitude which is almost reckless, in many aspects of our lives. “Yiyhe beseder”, this friendly tap on the shoulder, this wink, this “count on me”, is a symptom of a lack of order and discipline, of a lack of professionalism, of existing idleness.”

  11. Ben-Yehudah October 18, 2008 at 12:29 pm #

    B”H

    I cannot tell you how many pants I’ve ruined in Israel, due to the Israeli love affair with Ecomonica.

    A lot.

    Zeh lo yihyeh beseder.

    Hag Same’ah.

  12. Lady-Light October 19, 2008 at 2:48 pm #

    Noooooooooo, two of my favorite expressions are “chaval al ha-zman” and “ein matzav,” as in two Israeli guys ogling a pretty girl and one elbows the other and says “eizo chaticha, chaval al ha-zman;” the other one shrugs and answers “ein matzav!”
    Also fadicha. I just love that expression (have you heard it yet?)

  13. Benji Lovitt October 19, 2008 at 6:10 pm #

    I love fadichot. I actually think that should be a name of the next Israeli car.

    Ford Fadicha and the Nissan Fashla

    I think that’s all I have for now.

  14. Mo-ha-med October 24, 2008 at 8:01 am #

    Brilliant!
    A question though. What’s the difference between ‘yihyeh beseder’ and ‘yihyeh tov’? It seems to me that it’s a difference of intensity. Like, yihyeh tov works for the big stuff – ‘a war? ah, worry not. yihyeh tov’ – whereas yihyeh beseder seems a little more mundane…
    Your take? :)

  15. Benji Lovitt October 24, 2008 at 8:24 am #

    What’s my take? My take is that I’m pumped to have a Mohammed reading my blog! If I can break into the Arab market, I’m gonna be huge, baby!!! HUUUUGE!!!

    I also never hear “yiyeh tov” much, except for the old David Broza song. No worries-lo karah klum.

  16. Mo-ha-med October 24, 2008 at 8:41 am #

    Oy.. chaval.

    And for the record, I did hear Broza sing that live, ha!
    (which, as i’ve come to understand, is not much of a feat since the man seems on the path to becoming a Bar Mitsva singer. Fast.)

    We are reading, my friend, we are reading. You just don’t know it yet. Nyahahahahaha*.
    (*evil laugh. Fairly universal i believe, no?)

    As for the Arab market.. yeah.. ehemm.. sure. ;)
    Actually, Mr. Lovitt, I am actually a talent scout for the Arab Blogosphere Corporation (ABC), and i will be glad to recommend your blog and to offer you the Arab market on a silver platter in exchange for a voluntary contribution to be sent on an anonymous bank account in Saudi Arabia. :)

    (Eh, what do you want. I’m out of a job right now. We do what we can.)

  17. Lady-Light October 29, 2008 at 5:32 pm #

    Fadicha is great. I coined a new one, though, when I forgot how to say it (two years ago when I visited Israel to see my kids) and called it “fachula.” After my kids picked themselves up off the floor (‘eema messed it up again’), it became a family favorite, as in, “Fachula! (-A Fadicha in Afula!)
    Now the whole family says ‘fachula!’

  18. Amy January 3, 2012 at 7:29 am #

    Rereading this post a few years on (due to relevant mega-yihye b’seder current news story) reminded me of another blog post that’s stuck with me through the years, with another variant on yihye b’seder … “zeh lo katastrof.” (And it actually is a humorous/extraordinary/uplifting post, even with the ominous-sounding url.)

    http://myshrapnel.blogspot.com/2008/01/may-2002-bombing-left-me-with-shrapnel.html

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