6 Timeless Israeli Childhood Games
Growing up in Israel before the internet and smartphones children would play these special games. We wonder if the children still play this also today.
01 Machanayim- מחניים
The name comes from the Hebrew word for two encampments or two teams.
How to play:
A group of people stand in the center of a circle and try to dodge or catch a ball thrown at them by two people outside the circle. Whoever is hit by the ball joins the two people outside of the circle and together they try to hit the remaining people in the center. The winner is the last man standing in the center of the circle.
If someone catches the ball inside the circle they obtain "immunity" and can be hit with a ball once without having to leave the circle. There is no limit to how many times you can obtain "immunity".
02 Three sticks- שלושה מקלות
The name of this game comes from the three sticks used to play the game.
How to play
Three sticks (or ropes) are spaced at equal distances from each other. Each person must jump once between the sticks without stepping on a stick. The distance of the next round is determined by where the last person in line lands after jumping past the third stick. The stick in the middle is moved to equalize the distances between the first and third sticks.
Another version is Shevah Tsá'adim - Seven Steps (or Two Sticks) where each participant jumps six times within two sticks and the seventh jump must land past the second stick. The seventh jump of the last participant in line will determine the distance between the two sticks for the next round.
03 Five stones- חמש אבנים
This is practically a national sport in Israel, everyone knows how to play this game. You can compare this game to Jacks, the same idea but without a bouncing ball.
Small metal cubes are used to play this timeless game but if you find yourself far from a toy store, you can just pick up five small stones from the ground and play just as well.
How to play
There are four series of steps, onesies, twosies, threesies, and foursies.
First, you toss all five stones on the floor, select one, and toss it into the air. While the stone is in the air you need to quickly pick up one stone with one hand and then catch the stone in the air with the same hand. Repeat until all the stones have been picked up.
This continues for the other steps. Select one stone to toss in the air while picking up the remaining stones by twos, threes, and fours then catch the tossed stone with the same hand.
04 Salted Fish -דג מלוח
This game may be familiar to some as Red Light, Green Light.
How to play
Participants line up at the end of a field or room. One person, (the דג מלוח) stands on the opposite end. The line of participants needs to reach the Salted Fish and the first person to do so wins.
The דג מלוח turns his back to the participants; while his back is turned he yells out "one, two, three, דג מלוח (Dag Malooach)". While his back is turned the participants can move towards the דג מלוח. However, the participants have to freeze once the דג מלוח finishes yelling and turn around. If a participant is caught moving he has to return to the starting line and try again. The first person to reach the דג מלוח wins and switches places.
05 Catch- תופסת
How to play
The goal of the game is to not get caught. One person is the "catcher" and he chases the other participants until someone gets touched or tagged by the "catcher". If you get caught then you become the "catcher" and so on. Some versions of this game allow for players to yell time out for a break to catch their breath.
Others get more creative and create "penalties" for getting caught.
06 Adjuim / Gogo'im- אדג'ואים\ גאג'ואים
Adjuim, as it's known in Jerusalem and Gogo'im in the rest of Israel, is a simple and creative game. All you need to play are apricot pits.
To start playing all you need to do is buy apricots, eat them, and save the pits. This game is extremely popular in Israeli schools but it’s a seasonal game that lasts from one to two months when apricots are in season in Israel.
How to play
The objective of the game is the win the most apricot pits. There are a few ways to do so. One version of the game includes cardboard boxes with various holes labeled with a points system of how many apricot pits you can win for scoring. Depending on which hole you get in determines how many apricots pits you win.
Another version involves digging a hole about six feet in the distance, just big enough to contain a single apricot pit. Then you do your best to throw your own apricot pits into the hole; the first to succeed collected all the pits that fell short of the target.