notice that this information was originally present in /etc/X11/xorg.conf and it got transfered over.
reading the file
# If you change any of the following variables and HAL and X are
# configured to use this file, then the changes will become visible to
# X only if HAL is restarted. In Debian you need to run
# /etc/init.d/hal restart
this seems false to me. needs a reboot to modify in my case.
# The following variables describe your keyboard and can have the same
# values as the XkbModel, XkbLayout, XkbVariant and XkbOptions options
# in /etc/X11/xorg.conf.
# If you don't want to use the XKB layout on the console, you can
# specify an alternative keymap. Make sure it will be accessible
# before /usr is mounted.
also the setting in /etc/default/console-settings control the font and stuff in console mode. so can choose Uni1 instead of latin15 to get hebrew characters from the console