115th Annual Conference - Honolulu, Hawaii
Friday, November 10 - Sunday, November 12, 2017

Eliezer Ben Yehuda: The One-Man Campaign to Resurrect a Dead Language

Aviv Meltzer, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

Except for the purposes of prayer, the Hebrew language was not spoken for nearly 2000 years. Eliezer Ben-Yehuda decided that the time had come to change that situation and foresaw the need for a national language in Israel even before there was a state.

Proposal: 

Eliezer Ben-Yehuda: One Man Resurrects a Dead Language

In the beginning of the 20th century, there were 50,000 Jews living in Palestine who could speak Hebrew. For the next hundred years, millions of Jews immigrated to Israel. They spoke all the languages of the world except Hebrew. Today, in the 21st century, there are 7 million Jews in Israel, most of whom know Hebrew. The business of every public institution—schools, universities, health care, banks, government, the army—is conducted in Hebrew, the national language of all the Jews. This paper explores how such a language “miracle” came about.