Listen to any chapter of the Hebrew and Aramaic Bible (Old Testament)
Learn the Hebrew Alphabet: Step-by-Step at the University of
Listen to any chapter of the Hebrew and Aramaic Bible (Old Testament)
Learn the Hebrew Alphabet: Step-by-Step at the University of
JERUSALEM — Some Israelis have described being moved almost to tears by a rare viewing of the Great Isaiah Scroll, the best preserved and most complete Dead Sea biblical scroll, on special exhibit this summer at the Shrine of the Book at the Israel Museum for the first time in 40 years.
The familiar, unfulfilled prophecy of the 2,100-year-old scroll — “and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” — undoubtedly arouses emotion here. But there is also a thrill born of ordinary people being able to read, and at least partly understand, an ancient Hebrew text.
Two centuries after it was written, Jewish history became one of dispersal and exile, and Hebrew ceased to be widely spoken for the next 1,700 years.
Its revival is often hailed as one of the greatest feats of the Zionist enterprise; today Hebrew is the first language of millions of Israelis, a loquacious and literary nation that is said to publish an average of 5,500 books a year.
But in a country where self-doubt and insecurity run deep, even a linguistic triumph can be a cause for concern. After such a meteoric comeback, some worry that the common language may already be in decline, popularized to the point where many Israelis can no longer cope with the rich complexities of traditional Hebrew prose.
“There is a feeling of anxiety,” said Ruvik Rosenthal, a popular Israeli language guru and author of a best-selling dictionary of Hebrew slang.
There is the creeping foreign influence, as urban sophisticates pepper their Hebrew speech with accented English affectations like “please,” “sorry” and “whatever,” along with a noticeable loss of nuance and relative paucity of vocabulary in regular use.
Israelis can obsess about language. “We speak with mistakes,” Mr. Rosenthal said. “Everyone does, and everyone corrects everyone else.”
But he and other Hebrew watchers point to a potentially more disturbing trend: living Hebrew has moved at a fast pace, and in the process, it has become increasingly estranged from its loftier ancient form.
“We used to understand the biblical language better, and our language was closer to it,” said Ronit Gadish, academic secretary of the Academy of the Hebrew Language, the state’s supreme guardian of the national tongue. “Now, what can we do to keep up the continuity?”
In a country suffused with religious and historical symbolism, the linguistic link to the past has always evoked feelings of national identity, vindication and pride. Any erosion is bound to stir unease.
“The Bible,” said Mr. Rosenthal, “is first of all our connection to the land.”
Hebrew was never actually dead. It was more like an unborn child, according to Ariel Hirschfeld, a Hebrew literature lecturer at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, slowly developing over the centuries as the language of Jewish letters and prayer. Educated Jews would read the weekly Torah portion in Hebrew, while sages from Prague to Baghdad would correspond on religious questions in their only common tongue.
But the linguistic reincarnation came with the birth of modern Zionism and was largely driven by one man, Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, who was born in a Lithuanian village 150 years ago and immigrated to Palestine in 1881.
The classical Scriptures provided words for concepts like justice, mercy, love and hate, but not for more mundane things like “office” or “socks.” So Mr. Ben-Yehuda started inventing new words, mostly drawn from ancient biblical patterns and roots.
Authors and poets like the Nobel laureate S. Y. Agnon, Chaim Nahman Bialik and Uri Tzvi Greenberg, Hebrew revivalists from Eastern Europe, also drew on the ancient sources to create texts rich in biblical allusions yet conceptually avant-garde.
“They managed to tie the ancient language with the modern world in all its depth,” said Mr. Hirschfeld, who compares them in importance to James Joyce.
The Hebrew-speaking project took off rapidly in pre-state Palestine, and was adopted zealously by the Zionist pioneers. By
Now the academy continues the quest for new words, trying, with partial success, to introduce authentic Hebrew equivalents for foreign terms before they stick. In the country that invented instant messaging, that can often mean a race against time. So a text message is now officially called a “misron,” from “meser,” the word for message. The proper Hebrew for talk-back, commonly pronounced “tokbek,” is “tguvit,” a diminutive of “tguva,” response.
“When there was no word for tickle, nobody wrote about tickling,” said Gabriel Birnbaum, a language expert at the academy. “Today, we have everything.”
Mr. Birnbaum is now helping preserve the link with the past as part of a team writing entries for a historical Hebrew dictionary. The academy has been compiling material for it since 1959. Asked about a particular example of Hebrew shorthand often used in laconic online chat, Mr. Birnbaum was able with a click of his mouse to locate the earliest use of it — in a Dead Sea scroll.
Mr. Birnbaum, like most of the experts, views what is apparently the deterioration of Hebrew as a natural process, if it can be considered degeneration at all. The reality, they say, is not as bad as it sounds. Rather, the anxiety may stem less from the state of Hebrew and more from the Israeli state of mind.
“It comes from a lack of security,” said Mr. Rosenthal, who was born in 1948 and explained the linguistic qualms as part of the collective summing up of the past 60 years. “The state of Israel has no confidence in its continued existence.”
The language may have moved on since the days of the prophets, but perhaps the sense of doom has not.
Pablo Pullig Teixeira
Dissertação de mestrado em Lingüística (FL/UFRJ).
Data da defesa: maio de 2008.
Resumo: Esta dissertação apresenta como objetivo investigar o fenômeno de apagamento de sujeito em português do Brasil e em hebraico moderno; por intermédio de análise de fala espontânea. Entende-se que as duas línguas são favoráveis ao apagamento de sujeito; baseando-se; inicialmente; nas propostas de Duarte (1993; 1995) e Novaes (1996); para o português do Brasil e Vainikka & Levy (1995); Horesh (2003) e Shlonsky (2007); para o hebraico moderno. Para a realização deste estudo foram selecionadas doze entrevistas; retiradas da Internet; respectivas a um total de treze entrevistados. Sete entrevistados eram falantes nativos de português do Brasil e seis entrevistados eram falantes nativos de hebraico moderno. A partir da amostragem oriunda dos dados de fala espontânea coletados; foi possível comprovar que as duas línguas possuem certos comportamentos semelhantes para o apagamento de sujeito. Além disso; foi possível observar que em língua hebraica; no tempo passado; há mais sujeito nulo do que sujeito preenchido e que; em certos contextos específicos de tempo presente na língua semítica; o sujeito nulo apresentou caráter de variável.
Palavra-chave: Interpretabilidade; concordância; sujeito nulo.
By Tamar Rotem,
The Education Ministry is to ban Bible aid booklets that help elementary and junior high school students by "translating" the text into simple Hebrew. Private publishers defend the booklets by arguing that biblical Hebrew is a foreign tongue to young Israelis.
Teaching experts lambast the booklets, warning that children will skip reading the Bible and opt for the simplified version. This will not only deteriorate Bible studies but also impact the Hebrew language, which is based on the Bible, they say.
The idea of translating the Bible into simple contemporary language is "scandalous," Drora Halevy, the ministry's National Supervisor for Bible Studies, told Haaretz. The booklets present the text in "skimpy slang" that cheapens the Bible, she added. "It's a purely marketing initiative intended for the below-average; it's a disaster," says Professor Yaira Amit, a Bible instruction expert.
Booklet publishers Rafi Moses and Reches Publications say the Bible is a foreign language to Israeli children, who need to read it in simple language to understand it.
Halevy and other Bible and Hebrew language experts fear that children will simply not bother to read the Bible, but use the simple language version instead.
"The Bible is the Hebrew language's dictionary. It's the foundation of everything," says linguist Zvia Valdan. "If you read it without the original expressions and rhythms, it will lose its impact and power."
It is no secret that parents and children are confused when it comes to studying the Bible. Parents have difficulty explaining biblical texts to their children and might be tempted to buy the simply-worded,
But beyond that, the furor over the Bible Lite text highlights the fact that Israeli schoolchildren cannot cope with biblical Hebrew. "This is a colossal failure of our education system that defies description," says Professor Amit. "How come children used to be able to read the Bible? How come they used to be able to learn sections by heart? It was hard for them then too, but they dealt with it because they were told it was important. Religious schools wouldn't dream of simplifying the Bible," she says, adding that if you cannot handle the Bible's language, you will not be able to understand Bialik and Tchernechovsky's poetry.
Amit, who admits to feeling like the last guardian of the seal, is outraged that shallow instant culture has now dared to "simplify" the Bible. "We give precedence to shallowness and shortcuts in many areas of modern life. It's OK in e-mails in which the message is the main thing. But where is the boundary? You cannot do away with cultural values."
She believes that students should study the Bible for more hours and be required to quote from memory.
Reading the Bible Lite version shows that while it may not be slang, it is problematic. There is something discordant in the simplified version of the familiar, seminal Genesis text. "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth" is translated to "in the beginning God created the world."
"Why change the expression 'the heaven and the earth?'" asks Amit.
The expression "chaos" has been replaced by "the earth was empty and deserted."
Surprisingly, the man behind the Bible Lite version is a former Bible teacher and headmaster. "When they first suggested [making the booklets] I was astonished. Why should we rewrite the Bible in a simple tongue?" says Avraham Ahuvia, 87, of kibbutz Netzer Sereni. "But on second thought I was convinced that we teachers already translate the Bible orally in class for students who don't understand its sublime language."
He accepts that children may read only the simplified version, "but if there were no simple version, would they like the Bible better?"
Halevy is convinced that using the simple-language Bible will lead to the loss of Biblical expressions and idioms that are used in contemporary Hebrew. She asserts that the booklet's meager language drives children away from the Bible, rather than bring them closer.
Moses says "this is an important project that fulfills a real need. The booklet's language is first-rate. Our children deserve to understand the Bible, love it and savor its language without suffering."
This article is in response to the article of a similar title, Which Language Did Jesus Speak – Aramaic or Hebrew? by Brian Knowles published by ACD. While we essentially agree with the thesis of Mr. Knowles in that Jesus spoke primarily a Semitic language we do not agree with the conclusion that it was Hebrew rather than Aramaic. In this article we will provide background information that leads us to our conclusion. >>> Leia mais, clique aqui.
Ask any of us what we would rather study, and we'll tell you we prefer Hebrew language over Arabic," says Mohammed Yezbak, almost 21, from
The keyboard holds no attractions for Yezbak. Instead, he is now enrolled in the Department of Hebrew Language at
Hebrew is alive and well. At least in the Arab and Druze communities. For students from those sectors, the Hebrew language has become the new business administration - a social and professional catapult to get ahead and succeed in life. The sticklers add Hebrew literature, too. It's a triumph of practicality over ideology. The traditional attitude that language is part of national identity and that to study Hebrew is to cross the line, has given way to the quiet conquest of the Hebrew Language Department - at the
"To be a high-school teacher is fine, respectable work," says Ta'ir Kizel, from Maghar, a Druze-Muslim-Christian village in
The universities are having trouble digesting the new clients of Hebrew-language studies. "This image is extremely harmful to us," says
A matter of survival
At all the country's universities, Hebrew studies are in decline. "The humanities are in a bad way," says Prof. Chaim Cohen, head of the Hebrew Language Department at
"Even if it comes out of necessity, the result is better," says Dr. Tamar Sovran, the head of the Hebrew language section. "It led to interdisciplinary enrichment for both students and faculty."
The situation in
A society without humanities is a society void of content, Prof. Ben-Artzi says. "Every civilized society has grasped that.
How few students would it take to get the university to close the department?
"Everyone wants biotechnology, business administration and economics, and this is something new. But I cannot imagine that a department of Hebrew language or Bible will be shut down. It is inconceivable that people should complete a first degree in
Dynamics of life
But until that happens, the Jewish heritage will be studied, and without self-righteousness, by Arab students, or, as they are referred to in universities that uphold political correctness, non-speakers of Hebrew. "Suddenly the Arabs discovered that you don't have to be a Zionist in order to take
In recent years Arab students constituted 75 percent of the first-year students in the department, and now they are about 40 percent, Prof. Efrat explains. "I cannot lower the level and be flexible, because we are not a Hebrew ulpan [referring to intensive courses taken by new immigrants]. If I see students who do not meet the standards, I call them in for a personal interview, and if I am persuaded that they are not capable, then the answer is no. This creates terrible tension with the university, because if I admit fewer students, then obviously there will be fewer graduates."
The number of graduates is important because that is the criterion by which the state budgets each university. Statistically, then, it is in each department's interest to admit as many students as possible who will complete their studies - a factor that is hard to predict. Suzanne Shaar, a 29-year-old Christian Arab, started her love affair with Hebrew in high school, inspired by her teacher. "We studied Hebrew language and literature in a special program for Arabs," she says. "I took five [matriculation] units. I was drawn to the thorough way the teacher taught Hebrew language. When I completed twelfth grade I knew that I was going to study Hebrew at university." Shaar obtained a BA and an MA, did research on grammatical phenomena in Hebrew discourse, attended a teachers college and is now teaching Hebrew literature, language and expression in two private schools in
How does your society accept the fact that you are an expert in Hebrew language?
"I come from a family of coexistence. I lived in the Ein Hayam [neighborhood], with Jews. I always got positive responses from my parents. They imparted to me values of accepting the other, not life with racism. During periods of war, we were for peace."
Hadil Abu Fares-Kamal, a Druze woman of 26, was born in Isfiya and since getting married has lived in Daliat al-Carmel. She teaches Hebrew language in the junior high of the prestigious Reali school in
What does your social environment say about your focus on Hebrew?
"When I enrolled, the girls from my high-school class said, 'You were such a good student, and you chose to study Hebrew, of all things?' I told them that it doesn't matter what one studies, the main thing is to get ahead in life. With us, teaching is the usual thing, and the Druze do not have this viewpoint that if you hate the Jews you also hate the language. Those around me serve in the security forces - my brother and my father, too - and we identify with the state."
Hiasham Abu Ria, 24, from Sakhnin, says he decided to enroll in Hebrew language studies "because when I was a little boy I used to watch my siblings writing Hebrew and I would copy them, scribbling Hebrew letters without understanding what I was writing. We are 14 brothers and sisters. I heard my father, who was a contractor, speaking Hebrew with my brothers and I always asked them what they were saying. When I visited my friends, we would try to hold a dialogue in Hebrew based on what we learned at school, and I tried to show off by using words I heard from my siblings and my father, as though to show them that I knew more words."
After high school, Abu Ria turned the Hebrew words he had collected to practical use and entered the Hebrew Language Department at
Beyond abstract ideology, Hebrew is an instrument for integrating into the society that lies beyond the village and the tradition. It was, though, not an easy road. "I was the first and only Arab at
In the dynamics of life, Abu Ria says, from the viewpoint of a modern young Arab, Hebrew has inched its way into the daily routine naturally and almost without anyone noticing. "We integrate Hebrew words into the family and societal discourse," he says. "The language has already taken us over. For example, it's hard for me to write numbers in Arabic, and we are all like that. One day this week, my brothers-in-law and I met and decided not to use Hebrew words anymore - but we couldn't do it. You want to say something in Arabic but you have forgotten the word, and instead you use a Hebrew word. It's the dynamics of life. On the other hand, I know people who do not allow their children to speak Hebrew. I was visiting someone, and he shouted at his son, 'Don't speak Hebrew in my house.' It really is a little like sleeping with the enemy."
And what do you say to them?
"I tell them that we live in a democracy and that without Hebrew we would not be able to get along in life. If you go abroad and don't know English, you can't get along, so understand that here it's the same, I tell them. And besides, this is your country, where you live, so give it the language, at least, and respect it. This is our country and our language." Abu Ria has gone very far in terms of his respect for the country as a Muslim Arab. Two years ago he volunteered for army service and took an officers course. He is currently a mobilization officer in the Bedouin sector. "I am very pleased with my job. In another six months I will enter the career army, and I see myself having a military career," he says.
What do people in Sakhnin think about all this?
"It's [a matter of] their politics, their understanding. Some are in favor, others against, everyone according to the movement he belongs to. I go to those people and talk to them personally. I will give a million shekels to any of them who will move to an Arab state, and if he lasts five days there I will join him."
Ta'ir Kizel, from Maghar, took advantage of his ethnic origins to write a thesis on translations of the Bible from Arabic written in Hebrew script. "I examined ancient texts from the Cairo Geniza, which were brought from
Language of the majority
Dr. Amal Jamal, from the
But language is also national identity, and if Hebrew is penetrating the Arab discourse, maybe in another generation or two it will completely dominate the Arab street.
"That is unlikely to happen. Hebrew is the language of the majority and of the strong, and there is always a tendency to imitate those who have power. It is a type of false consciousness, a case of internalizing the suppression: people identify themselves with the strong side in order to achieve self-empowerment. Besides that, among the young generation, Hebrew is identified with modernity, it is part of being 'in.' There is a trend of speaking Hebrew slang, but that does not mean they have adopted the Hebrew culture in the deep sense. The average Arab does not read Hebrew novels - who among them has read Amos Oz or A.B. Yehoshua? A tiny fraction of the elite. The majority identify with the Arab culture that is beyond the country's borders, not with Hebrew culture. They watch the Lebanese version of 'American Idol.' The Arab world media resolved the language problem for the Arabs. What you see is that the 'in' trend of speaking Hebrew has now spawned a counter-trend. There are a few organizations that are out to preserve Arabic, and they are fighting those who integrate Hebrew words, and fining them."
Mohammed Yezbak is not deterred. He makes his living as a worker in Oranim Bakery, located in Kibbutz Kfar Hahoresh, in