Grammatical gender poses a serious problem to second language (L2) learners as well as to proficient speakers of L2. This paper tests what contributes to this difficulty in L2 Hebrew. Gender identification in the absence of lexical information was tested for 30 Hebrew L2 learners and 20 Hebrew near-native speakers whose L1 has gender morphology, e.g. Russian, or not, e.g. English, as well as 10 adult native speakers of Hebrew. Te participants were tested on assigning grammatical gender to novel animate nouns in Hebrew. The findings show that difficulties are due to L1 interference, by indirect reliance on L1 strategies in determining gender for novel animate nouns in L2, rather than access to Universal Grammar or across the board reliance on native adult strategies.