The Hebrew battlefield
Meir Shalev
Published: 10.12.07, 09:52
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1. Hebrew is taught to children and adults by
Rivkah   (12.10.07)
Jewish Congregations and individuals and weekend schools for children in America. The Jews teach their children the Hebrew language and culture and Torah if they are obedient to the Bible commands to do so. There are parents who fail in their duty to do that when the children complain and those parents will be judged by God for failing their children by letting them forget Jerusalem, the language, the culture, the religion. So many generations have passed that heritage on when that meant severe penalties to do so.
2. our heritage, our life
chava ,   yerushalayim   (12.10.07)
You're right. Hebrew is a living language and therefore changes & grows constantly. Does it matter that young people have no idea of the background of the expression that an asimone fell? Probably not. But when people today don't know the background of a modernized or literal phrase from Tanach, that's a tragedy. Hebrew doesn't stand alone. It's part of our heritage, our history, our culture, our life.
3. Ben-Yehuda was a genius
Judah ,   Golan Heights,ISRAEL   (12.10.07)
4. Hebrew vs. Arabic
Adriatic_boy ,   Bosnia & Herzegovina   (12.10.07)
I am not sure how Arabic is keeping constant and at the same time Hebrew is challenged by globalization???
5. #Adriatic boy
israeli ,   israel   (12.10.07)
something to do with the 7th century.
6. funny
israeli ,   israel   (12.10.07)
how Hebrew is forgotten after a generation or two in America, yet the Jews who were driven out of Spain 500 years ago have managed to keep Ladino alive, and Yiddish was not forgotten even in the most hostile of environments.
7. #4
Hilda ,   US   (12.10.07)
The difference is in the people. Jewdaism is democratic and also when Jews come to the US or any other country they want to integrate and become citizen of the country where Muslims do not want to integrate, they want to change the country to their religion and culture., thus the destroying the native culture. Jews do not want to take over the world they just want a little spot of their own and they reutrned to theiir beginnings. Muslims are intent on making the world Muslim.
8. Consider for example that no country in SA has its own .
redmiike ,   tel aviv and london   (12.10.07)
language! Spanish in every country but Brazil where Portuguese is spoken. That Hebrew is the official language in Israel is a real miracle! Mike
9. #4 - almost every country but the Arab ones are threatened
redmiike ,   tel aviv and london   (12.10.07)
by English. It is universal and almost everyone in Israel and other countries can not only speak it reasonably well but most can read it almost fluently. Almost every book of technological value is in English or Russian. Compare this to Arabic which most Arabs can't read. The answer to your question is 'ignorance'. Sorry but that's the truth - most Arabs are illiterate and can't even read or write their own language.. Mike
10. Hebrew vs. Arabic
Abarbanel ,   US   (12.10.07)
Who says that "Arabic is keeping constant"? Spoken Arabic varies significantly from country to country in the Arab world. It is very different between Morocco, Egypt, and Iraq. Classical Arabic is constant (that's like Latin for Arabs. But that's like medieval Europe - Latin versus French, Spanish, Italian, etc...
11. The only option is to EXPAND BORDERS
12. Ben Yehuda
Abel Shoni ,   France   (12.10.07)
(only for information purpose). "To make available the riches of ancient as well as modern Hebrew, Ben Yehuda concentrated his efforts on his monumental lifework, The Dictionary of the Hebrew Language, Old and New. He worked daily on the dictionary and continued the task during the years of World War I, which he spent in New York. At his death five volumes of the dictionary had been published. Ben Yehuda left enough material to complete the work. In all, 16 volumes were published, the last one appearing in 1959. Ben Yehuda also wrote textbooks in history and literature and translated literary works into Hebrew. Ben Yehuda's first wife, Dvora, died in 1891. His second wife, Heinda, a sister of Dvora, was the first woman to write stories on life in the new Palestine. Ben Yehuda suffered from poor health; at times he endured hunger and persecution; yet at the end he witnessed the triumph of his ideal. The Hebrew language, which has become the national tongue of Israel, today serves as the mortar that cements the multilingual Jews who have come from the far corners of the world into one nation." (Answers.com)
13. The race card
5th generation ,   Israel   (12.10.07)
Whine and cry about the "uneducated" and "foreign workers" all you want, but %-wise more of them manage to learn and use Hebrew than former Soviet "geniuses" who were paid to come and live here as Israelis.
14. Hebrew in America
elie   (12.10.07)
While in St. Louis, MO we could not find one synagogue with acceptable Sfardit pronunciation of Hebrew. I compromised on Bnai Emunah until moving to DC. In DC, Susan Koss the principal of JPDS could not even pronounce "yeladim" (i.e. properly) let alone much else. When I taught Hebrew at Bnai Israel, after 6 years of "Sunday school", I tested their knowledge with the most basic words: Shabbat, melech, kiddush, etc. The average score was 30 out of 100 on simple every day words. The principal explained that "Less is more" and I should concentrate making the children "feel good" instead of seriously teaching them. On the other hand, my 3 children are perfectly fluent in Hebrew. One has qualified as a Hebrew linguist with a govt. agency as a translator. Two of my children also studied Arabic. Teaching materials that I prepared covering 7 classic "binyanim" along with the unrecognized/unknown others (maf'el, a'fel, ta'fel, sha'fel), along with imperitives, adjectives, and most other Hebrew constructs sits in a computer file unused because no one teaches Hebrew grammar properly anymore. The "modern" immersion techniques get people to speak, albeit not correctly, quickly but they don't really "know" the language. In American no one teaches the difference between Ashkenazit and Sepharadit, so you have either Ashkenazit or some pitiful bastardization of the two. The situation of Hebrew in America is pathetic. On the other hand the Hebrew of young Israelis is also deteriorating. The "Haval al hazman" is literally "Haval al Hazman" and not what they intended it to mean.
15. Being a former child/teenager in the U.S....
Steve ,   UK   (12.10.07)
...I can tell you it all comes down to motivation. There's no reason for them to learn it because, they feel, outside of shul they'll never use it. They live in the U.S., with the exception of Canada an Mexico it's expensive to travel anywhere outside the lower 48, and the chances of them spending so much time in Israel that they need more than a phrasebook are slim, so of course they forget it, or ignore it. "Dude, what's hebrew for pwned?"
16. #6 Hebrew is forgotten because it's a Zionists language
Joseph P. ,   Jerusalem   (12.10.07)
not coming from religious Jews, unlike the holy language of Lashon Hakodesh which every religious Jew worldwide is familiar with. Yiddish, because it's the language of the Yidden (Jews), will forever remain in Jewish blood.
17. #16 Joseph - Please analyze the word "Mishtachaveh" and give
meir elazar   (12.10.07)
#16 Joseph - Please analyze the word "Mishtachaveh" and give me the correct shoresh and binyan (construct). I have found that most religious can "mouth" the prayer and parrot what they have been taught to repeat but don't really understand the fundamental Hebrew or the essence of Judaism.
18. old vs new
peter ,   amsterdam NL   (12.10.07)
Meir Shalev writes in his article:"..many Biblical allusions are not being understood by readers, while ancient idioms are forgotten." This happens in all other languages like Dutch as well(the only language I can really claim indepth knowledge of, with English a close 2nd). Biblical allusions/sayings are not common knowledge anymore among the youngest generation. Education in schools has to deal with new demands, while new idiom enters the fray constantly. Classical languages(whether old Hebrew, old Greec or Latin) are crowded out in favour of new subjects. It becomes the domain of specialists. Regarding the fluency it's necessary to speak a language daily after learning it from your parents and at school. For Ivrit this means living in Israel or in a community abroad where Hebrew is spoken at home. My Hebrew remains rudimentary as a result, even after doing an ulpan. Other matters take precedence however much you'd like to improve your Hebrew. I can still get around in Israel, though on a very basic level.
19. 16, Joseph P., WHATS WRONG WITH YOU?
Judah ,   Golan Heights,ISRAEL   (12.10.07)
You have become sO anti-zionist that you can't even think straight anymore. Yiddish is NOT the historic language of the Jews. Yiddish is a language that the European Ashkenazi Jews used and is a mixture of Hebrew, German Dutch ect. It has only been around for hundreds of years. Hebrew and Aramaic on the other hand are the languages of our ancestors during biblical times and has been around for thousands of years. I suggest Joseph that you go to museums in Jerusalem and you will clearly read the Hebrew, not Yiddish, that is on biblical coins, jars ect.
20. abbreviations make Hebrew difficult
Tibor M.   (12.10.07)
Even after 3 levels of ulpan it's difficult to read a newspaper because of the many abbreviations, which make Hebrew even more of a code language than it is, being written without vowels. There are no dictionaries which explain these abbreviations, and of course no Israeli would be patient enough to explain them to an oleh.
21. thank you, Judah #19
israeli ,   israel   (12.10.07)
what I meant is that some Israelis moving to America would rather let their children forget Hebrew. I was born and raised outside Israel, yet my children speak my Indo-European mother tongue quite well and almost without an accent.
22. Ironically, Forgetfulness a sign of maturity
Abe Froman ,   NY, NY   (12.10.07)
Young Hebrew speakers forgetting the biblical or original origin of idioms is a sign of mature, secure language. How many people in the US understand where "hip," really comes from? Do they really need to? The same goes for Hebrew.
23. #19 Juda, read my post again.
Joseph P. ,   Jerusalem   (12.10.07)
Hebrew is the modern language that was created by the mechalel Shabbat, Ben Yehuda, while smoking a cigarette on Shabbat. So what kind of kedushah (holiness) could it have? Lehavdil, Lashon Kodesh which is used in Tanach and the Siddur, is a completely different story. Hebrew is like Zionism being similar to traditional Judaism and there are those who indeed feel that this replaces Jewish traditional way of life. As it is well-known, when the state was created and the newcomers came from all over, the Zionists with their new religion taught these people that observing mitzvot in this country is not necessary. Observing Shabbat, tzitzit, peyot, etc. was only required in galut, but in this country, the main thing is mitzvat yishuv eretz Israel (the mitzva of residing in Israel) and that's it. So this is the Zionist's new religion with Hebrew, their language. A good pair. Although Yiddish is a mixture of several languages and it's indeed only been around several hundred years, it IS an historic language of the Jews because it was created by orthodox Jews for Jews. Speaking Yiddish connects a person to the previous generations and is still very, very much used all over the world. Those who speak Yiddish are not embarrassed to speak it and are not intimidated by Zionists who view them as old-fashioned, but on the contrary, feel very proud to be a link to their religious forefathers, in whose merit we, Jews, are still around today as observant G-d fearing Jews.
24. Ummm, Joseph, my ancestors didn't speak Yiddish...
Joe ,   Los Angeles, CA   (12.10.07)
Would you suggest I start speaking Arabic to make my furry-hatted coreligionists happy?
25. Yordim and Hebrew
Joe ,   Israel   (12.10.07)
There is probably a direct correlation between their loss of identity, as Jews and Israelis, and their loss of language.
26. #14 elie
Lerner ,   USA   (12.10.07)
There is a dearth of good book on learning the language. I have so far bought several books on the language. The first one was good for learning printed forms. Books #2 was good for learning script. Then came a supposedly nice course with audio. But it didn't really teach the mechanics of the language. I would often be baffled as to why the verbs were the way they were. It was good for introducing vocabulary for everyday but not much else. Book #4 finallly teaches the mechanics as well as everyday vocabulary-but sloowwwlly. It's catch 22. I've stayed with book 4, as at least it has a continuation. One thing this book doesn't go over is when to properly use Kamatz Katan.
27. lack of decent Hebrew textbooks
Reader ,   NYC   (12.10.07)
Look at the other big languages... You can find many learning resources online. At best for Hebrew, you can find the "express" courses that teach you to ask for a glass of water and where is the restaurant... if you want to learn better, you need to buy textbooks, which are, let's be honest, not cheap, and not always easy to learn from. Up until a couple of years ago, I haven't even seen a decent Hebrew textbook in Barnes and Noble... What the Hebrew Academy in Israel should do is start a wing that will create free PDF materials for main languages - English, Russian, French, etc. so that Jews everywhere had access to these... Is maintaining a website such a big investment?
28. Joseph P, Yiddish isn't the language of Jews, just some Jews
Hebrew, on the other hand is, or at least should be, the language of ALL Jews, those from Poland and Yemen alike. How many young Jews speak Yiddish and those who do better know another language to converse with let's say an Athenian Jew. Yiddish being a traditional language? Not if you're from Marocco.
29. #28
David Hudec ,   Prague, Czech Rep   (12.11.07)
And don't count on Yiddish in modern day Czech either. Yiddish is nice to know, as it is a gate to the heart and mind of older generation East European Jews. Unfortunately, there are fewer and fewer speakers as time moves on. There are some younger people who speak it, but will it be enough? Try finding Hebrew materials for Czech if you really want to hunt for books. Happy Chanuka
30. "a change to a pure language'
marilyn   (12.11.07)
That is the promise of God. And I believe that is the 'language' of faith and love. Hebrew is the language Gods word was originally written in, and there can be nothing but value from learning the language. But I have discovered that 'language' is the means of communication, and that one can be speaking the 'same' dialect but the 'language' is different, because I have discovered those who speak with faith are interested in different things then those without faith and vice a versa. And when in conversation with each other there is confusedness and a being uncomfortable with each others 'language'
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