“Your language is not dead until you can pass it on to someone”: Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, a person who revived Hebrew

“Your language is not dead until you can pass it on to someone”: Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, a person who revived Hebrew

On January 7, 1858, in Luzhki Village near Vilnius (at that time under the occupation of Russian Empire), Eliezer Ben-Yehuda was born, who is called the father of the modern Hebrew. He devoted his whole life to the revival of Hebrew, its development and enrichment: Ben-Yehuda created one of the first weeklies in Hebrew, he founded the Hebrew Language Committee, which later became the Hebrew Language Academy, and he began publishing the first complete dictionary of Hebrew.

Few people believed that the ancient language, which had not been spoken for millennia, could be introduced into everyday circulation. Ultra-religious Jews called for leaving Hebrew as the language of prayer. Even the founder of Zionism, Theodor Herzl, doubted the possibility of Hebrew to become a common language. He really wanted everyone in the future Jewish State to speak the language of the great culture, that is in German.

Eliezer Ben-Yehuda did not agree with this. In the preface to his dictionary, he wrote, “If it is possible to restore a language that has ceased to be spoken, and make it colloquial, expressing everything that at least one person wants to say, then, undoubtedly, such a language can be made a spoken language for the whole society” .

Ben-Yehuda believed that “Only one wise and energetic person is needed for every deed, who is ready to put all his strength into it, and the deed will move despite any obstacles … A pioneer who knows no retreat is needed for every innovation, for every, even the smallest step on the path of progress.” He turned out to be such a person for Hebrew.

Eliezer Ben-Yehuda’s family spoke only Hebrew, and his son Ben-Zion (better known as Itamar Ben-Avi) became the first native speaker of Hebrew.

People laughed at him when he tried to raise his son so that he would not come into contact with speakers of other languages ​​until he became adult. His son grew up knowing only Hebrew. Only when he became adult, he studied other languages, which were  spoken at that time in the area where he lived.

What do you think would happen if you kept your children away from contact with Russian language until a certain age?


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