If you can believe it, as recently as the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, the Hebrew language was considered a dead language. Hebrew was used purely for religious purposes; it was not a spoken language at all, only a holy one.
When Eliezer Ben Yehuda (and his wife Chemda, the revivalists of the Hebrew language) decided that the Hebrew language should be spoken by all Jewish people, they started with themselves and with their own family, in their own home. Ben Yehuda insisted on speaking only Hebrew with his children and with his wife. A few problems arose when the family found that not every word that existed in their world existed in the Torah. When Ben Yehuda’s son was playing with a ball, he did not know what to call the object. Where, in the Torah, can you find a story about children playing with a ball? You can’t. So Ben Yehuda started inventing words that did not exist in the Torah. He made up the word “kadoor” for ball, “milon” for dictionary, “glidah” for ice cream, and hundreds of other words in Hebrew. Understanding that the conversational Hebrew we speak today is actually relatively modern, but the Hebrew language itself is ancient is a pretty big deal. As one of my Kitah Alef students said this week, “But how could they have glidah in the Torah when they were walking in the desert? It was hot, and they didn’t have a freezer!”
It’s a serious problem that Ben Yehuda found an answer for, thank goodness.
Ben Yehuda worked diligently to create the modern Hebrew language we know it to be today – a living, breathing, beautifully dynamic and diverse language, which serves a myriad of purposes and people . As Ben Yehuda said, “The Hebrew language will go from the synagogue to the house of study, and from the house of study to the school, and from the school it will come into the home and… become a living language.” And so it is today.
This week we are also celebrating Chaim Nachman Bialik, Israel’s national poet, who wrote many poems and stories for both children and adults. Eliezer Ben Yehuda and Chaim Nachman Bialik’s birthdays occur in the same week, and we are excited to celebrate their birthdays and the Hebrew language.
Here are few ways we celebrated this week:
On Monday we had Sh’at Sipoor (story time) and enjoyed “mits petel” (special Israeli raspberry juice). On Tuesday we watched a Hebrew film (with popcorn!) during lunch, and today we enjoyed Hebrew karaoke during lunch recess.
And on Friday we will enjoy our special Hebrew carnival!
In addition, our amazing Hebrew team has been working all week on a variety of Hebrew projects in the classrooms. Our incredible Shinshiniot, Dan and Eliya, have also been creating special Hebrew week activities with our students.
You can enjoy Hebrew week, too! In the entrance to Yavneh you will find a little Hebrew library. You may take a book, return it or keep it at home. You are also welcome to donate Hebrew books that you have already enjoyed. Adult and children’s books are both welcome.
Tomorrow afternoon we will have a special Kabbalat Shabbat in honor of Hebrew week. Kitah Alef, Bet and Gimel will perform in Hebrew. Please join us at 2:15.
Shvua Ivrit Sameach! Happy Hebrew Week to all!
Director of Hebrew