Probably one of the last things you want to hear an Israeli say is the ostensibly comforting phrase “yihye beseder” (yee-he-YE be-SE-der, meaning “It’ll be all right”). Like its cousin, “ein ma la’asot” (“There’s nothing to be done”), it connotes a certain fatalism that can indicate the speaker has no intention of doing anything about your problem, which is particularly frustrating when the person speaking is the one who’s supposed to take care of it.

After all, we are expected to understand, there’s nothing much that a mere mortal – like the guy who’s supposed to get running water flowing through your apartment’s pipes again or the Interior Ministry clerk who has to get you a new passport if you’re going to make your flight – can do. But don’t worry, we’re told – everything will somehow work itself out anyway.

A song by Israeli singer Gidi Gov called “Yihye Beseder” (what else?) reflects the sense that the phrase can sometimes be a smokescreen meant to lull listeners into submission when really things aren’t okay at all. The song starts out listing problems like a power blackout, a nurses' strike and trash “piling up beyond all limits,” then goes into the chorus: “Yihye beseder / That’s what they tell me / That’s what they sell me / A disaster’s gonna hit here.”

To contact Shoshana Kordova with column suggestions or other word-related comments, email her at shoshanakordova@gmail.com.