Hebrew is an ancient language in the 3000s, belongs to the family of Afro-Asian languages, like its sister Arabic, Hebrew evolved from the Semitic language. Hebrew is the “language of the past” mentioned in the Bible as the ancient pain of the peoples of the region, including the people of Israel. The Bible says that “there” was the ancestor of “past”. From this we can understand the connection between the Semitic, which was the language of the “name” of the ancestor, and the Hebrew which is considered the language of the “past”. The book of Genesis calls our ancestor Abraham “the Hebrew Abraham”, and the sons of Abraham, the twelve tribes of Israel are called “the Hebrews”. It is assumed that this nickname came because Hebrew was the language of the Jews and the Samaritans at that time. According to the Bible, their origin was from an ethnic group in the ancient East who crossed the Jordan River and settled in Israel.
The uniqueness of Hebrew is that it connects the past with us and us today. The only one of all the ancient languages that has survived, and it is spoken and lived to this day.
The author Ran Levy, presenter of the podcasts “Making History”, describes this wonderful and exciting phenomenon well. In one of his programs, Ran recounted a unique experience he had when he visited the archeology department of the Israel Museum, and these are his words: From what is known to us today – but still the contents of the tombstones could be deciphered effortlessly. Between me and my ancestors … this experience reminded me how truly ancient Hebrew is, and how fascinating and amazing the fact that we speak it today, thousands of years after it first appeared … “Ran says that the roots of Hebrew are in Mesopotamia, the area where we live today Iran and Iraq where the first reporter was born. It was a complex and cumbersome drawing. Over time, a peg script evolved from it that translated the hundreds of markings and shapes into short lines. But it still takes quite a bit of effort to decipher the script correctly and accurately. Ran says that a significant step in the development of writing took place around 1500 BC, a move that simplified and refined the Egyptian hieroglyphics to only twenty-two letters. Thus was born the ancient Canaanite scripture that fascinated Phoenician merchants and thanks to them spread throughout the Middle East.
About a thousand years BC this manuscript was adopted by our “Hebrew” ancestors. In the Land of Israel, Phoenician became a local dialect then known as the “Canaanite language” or “Jewish”, and today is called “Biblical Hebrew”. Even in our Hebrew today we can find the connection to the ancient Phoenician through the twenty-two letters, from which the roots of the word families are formed. For about four hundred years, the children of Israel spoke and wrote in biblical Hebrew, until the Assyrian uprising in 726 BC, in response to which the Assyrians exiled thousands of Jews from the Land of Israel and scattered them throughout the great kingdom. About a century after the revolt of the kingdom of Israel in Assyria, the people of the kingdom of Judah revolted against the Babylonian Empire, which replaced its predecessor. Of the Jewish independent state in the Land of Israel. Our Hebrew also had to pay a heavy price at the time. The language ceased to be a bee and living language.
While the exiled Jews stopped speaking Hebrew, new residents arrived in the country who settled in Samaria and were called “the Samaritans”. They adopted the language of the place and its customs, continued to write and speak in biblical Hebrew even after the destruction of the First and Second Temples. In contrast, the Jews were increasingly influenced by Aramaic, the language penetrated into their spoken language and the Aramaic manuscript took the place of the biblical Hebrew script among the Jews. After the destruction of the Second Temple, Hebrew almost completely ceased to be the everyday spoken language of the Jews. Two thousand years of exile caused Hebrew to become a written “sacred language.” Almost every Jew learned as a child to read and write A-B in a room. But the language was used for prayers and piyyutim and ceased to be a living and spoken language on a daily basis. Ran Levy says: “Hebrew was so dormant and abandoned that even the state contract, Benjamin Zeev Herzl, did not believe that he would ever come back to life – not even in the Jewish state that flourished in his imagination.” Who among us knows Hebrew sufficiently? “Even to ask for a train ticket in that language?”
Who would have believed that dormant Hebrew would be resurrected and come back to life after so many years? The first to contribute were dear Jews such as Moshe Mendelssohn, David Friedlander, Israel Jacobson and others, members of the Enlightenment movement. They wanted the Jews to leave the “Jewish ghetto”, stop studying Gemara and replace their traditional dress with modern clothes.
The stories of the Bible and the Bible were replaced by the writers of the Enlightenment movement and its poets with modern stories and poems, written in Hebrew.
In this way, they proved that works written in the present can be used in Hebrew, and not only in the holy books.
A significant impetus was given to the revival of Hebrew in the late 19th century, following the rise of the Zionist movement and the beginning of settlement in the Land of Israel. It was Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, the father of modern Hebrew, who argued that in the land of the patriarchs the language of the patriarchs should be spoken. Ben-Yehuda worked in a large number of fields to promote Hebrew speech in the Land of Israel. At home he made sure to speak only Hebrew with his family. So that his son could play and say what was on his mind, Ben-Yehuda began to invent new words in Hebrew. For example: ball, doll, ice cream, bicycle, gloves, hat. In the memoir he wrote about those days, he wrote that even in homes where the parents spoke Hebrew with the children, and although there was room for other languages, the children also spoke Hebrew. Ben-Yehuda believed that kindergartens and schools should also speak Hebrew and teach “Hebrew in Hebrew.”