Hebrew Language

   The official language of the state of Israel, Hebrew, is a Semitic language in which most of the Bible, the Mishna, parts of the Talmud, and much of rabbinic and secular Jewish literature are written. It is written from right to left. Until the Babylonian exile (in 586 BC), Hebrew was the sole language of the Jews. After the exile, Aramaic came into widespread use, although some Hebrew was still utilized. Both the Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmuds are written in Aramaic rather than Hebrew. In countries of the Diaspora, the Jewish communities adopted local languages and substantially limited their use of Hebrew as a language of communication, although it remained a language of Jewish literature and prayer. As the language of the Bible and prayer, it was considered the sacred tongue. When the first pioneers came to Palestine in the 1880s, it seemed natural to use Hebrew as the vernacular language.
   The revival of the Hebrew language was closely associated with Eliezer Ben Yehuda, who arrived in Palestine in 1881 and sought to promote the use of Hebrew as a spoken language. There was opposition from skeptics, who felt that the language was not rich enough to deal with contemporary matters and from the ultrareligious who objected to the use of the sacred tongue for practical, everyday concerns. There was a vocabulary gap as a consequence of centuries of limited use. Ben Yehuda founded the Vaad Halashon Haivrit (Hebrew Language Council) in 1890 for the purpose of coining and creating new Hebrew words for modern usage. After the independence of Israel, this body became the Akademiya Lalashon Haivrit (the Hebrew Language Academy). Hebrew made great strides among the pioneers who arrived in Palestine prior to 1948 and was well entrenched by the time of Israel's independence and the influx in Israel of hundreds of thousands of new immigrants (see ALIYA) in the late 1940s and early 1950s, who would have to learn Hebrew to become integrated with the society of the new state.

Historical Dictionary of Israel. .

Look at other dictionaries:

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