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THEORY: Hebrew revival (was: THEORY: Irish, and language death)

From:Dan Sulani <dnsulani@...>
Date:Friday, June 20, 2003, 11:47
On 19 June, Thomas R. Wier wrote:

<snip the interesting discussion on Gaelic>

> Hebrew > is an exception to the general trend, and it is (to oversimply > somewhat) a result of having no one other language which all > Jews in Palestine could easily pick up without going to > great lengths
It's my understanding that the considerations had a lot more to do with ideology than practicality. (See, for example, "Israel: a history" by Martin Gilbert). The "battle" for the tongues of the people was led by the educational institutions. The first agricultural school, (which trained many of the first kibbutznikim), for example, was set up by French Jews and everything was conducted there in French. When the Technion, Israel's version of MIT, was set up, there was a great demand that German be the language of instruction, and the German Jews pushed hard for German to be the official language of the Jewish state-to-be: after all, they argued, the greatest scientific, artistic, and philosophical achievements of the time were expressed originally in German (remember, this was before the Holocaust). Most Jews from the Arabic-speaking countries preferred to speak either French or Arabic in public (and many spoke Ladino at home). The Ultra-Orthodox flatly refused to use Hebrew for anything other than prayer --- they only wanted to speak Yiddish. Russian was the language that many of the Jews from Eastern Europe preferred. It was in 1889 that Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, Yehiel Pines, and others formed a group to try to persuade the Jews to speak Hebrew. They eventually convinced the Zionist leaders, and more importantly, the pre-state's educational system, that Hebrew should be --- and could be --- the language in which a modern Jew in the new state could express himself/herself. It was not a self-evident practical solution to a communication problem: I recall reading somewhere that there were riots in the streets over which language should be adopted as Israel's national language.
>(though note that it is in many ways a new > language, not at all like that of King David).
I beg to differ with the words "not at all like". Yes, there _are_ differences, but Israeli schoolchildren can read the Hebrew of King David's time at least as easily, if not more easily, than English-speaking schoolchildren can read Shakespeare, let alone the English of Chaucer! (The Bible, in the original Hebrew, is used in the public, _nonreligious_ , elementary schools here in Israel, as a history text and as a literature text. I don't recall, in my own schooldays in America, tackling Shakespeare until high school!) Dan Sulani --------------------------------------------------------- likehsna rtem zuv tikuhnuh auag inuvuz vaka'a A word is an awesome thing.


Thomas R. Wier <trwier@...>
Adam Walker <carrajena@...>