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Hebrew Language Day

January 25, 2017
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Eleazar BenYehuda at his desk in Jerusalem, circa 1912

Friday, 27 January 2017 | Israel marks Hebrew Language Day every year on the birthday of Eliezer Ben Yehuda, the father of modern spoken Hebrew. This year, the Hebrew date fell on January 19. The revival of the Hebrew language is an extraordinary story, unparalleled in history. A language with roots dating back more than 3,000 years, it was brought back to life after centuries during which it effectively lay dormant, and it’s now flourishing in the 21st century. A hundred and fifty years ago, Hebrew was not a spoken language. Today, more than 9 million people speak Hebrew and, for the majority of them, it’s their native tongue.

Throughout the millennia of the Jewish dispersion following the destruction of the Second Temple in AD 70, Hebrew remained alive in liturgy and religious ceremonies across the Diaspora. Each generation was encouraged to be literate in Hebrew so as to be familiar with Judaism’s foundational texts and life-cycle traditions and rituals. But, during these years, the language ceased to be a living, breathing part of ordinary, secular personal or national life.

Eliezer Ben Yehuda was the driving force behind the revival of the ancient language and its transformation into its modern form. This visionary linguist, who was born in Lithuania in 1858, came to Israel in 1881 with a dream to transform Hebrew into a modern language and to make it the language spoken in every home in Israel. He settled in Jerusalem and dedicated his life to the realization of his dream.

Ben-Yehuda fashioned out of the ancient Hebrew structures over 300 new Hebrew words. Since then, more than 15,000 new words have been added, and we’re still counting. The Hebrew language is a rich, compelling expression of Israeli vitality and, at the same time, of the profound link between the Bible and the latter-day rejuvenation of the Jewish people in their ancient homeland.


Posted on January 25, 2017

Source: (Excerpt of article published by the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 19 January 2017. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Public Domain

Photo License: Wikipedia