Bilingualism and Diaspora Jewry Israel's Phosphate Exports Expanded
By S. J. GOLDSMITH
(Copyright 1969, JTA the-)
LONDON—David Ben-Gurion was
right when he said that Diaspora
Jews who would not or could not
settle in Israel and yet wished to
remain Jews must teach their chil-
dren Hebrew. otherwise the links
between Israel and the Diaspora
were bound to weaken as time goes
Nor is there any need to dwell in
this day and age on our tradition,
which is Hebrew from Genesis on-
wards. and on the excitement and
elation experienced by a Diaspora
Jew when he comes to Israel and is
able to speak Hebrew. Of course,
a Jew feels at home in Israel with-
out Hebrew but he is unable to melt
into the background, to feel his
roots, to unbend spiritually, to re-
lax intellectually among • equals,
unless he has Hebrew—and Hebrew
is much more than "Shalom."
Again, because Yiddish is grad-
ually disappearaing from Jewish
life (it will not be saved artifi-
cially by having Yiddish chairs
at universities; they have chairs
for Latin too and nobody actually
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speaks Latin) there will be no l
common Jewish language unless!
Jews learn to speak Hebrew, and
not only to pray in Hebrew. In'
fact, speaking is more important
in this context, since you can
pray in any language according
to our tradition. The Almighty is
multilingual by virtue of being
All this is axiomatic, though it
bears repetition. Diaspora Jews
must, therefore, become bilingual
if they are to survive as Jews. It
must be Hebrew and English, He-
brew and French, Hebrew and
Dutch, or whatever.
Here it would not be out of place
to pose a definition. Sir Ben Bowen
Thomas, a Welshman, defined bi-
lingualism in an address to the
British Association for the Advance-
ment of Science, a few years ago.
The child attains a mastery of its
mother tongue and of a second
language current within its society,
or connected with its tradititon and
the spiritual experience of its
group. Sir Ben was talking of bi-
lingualism in Wales but his defini-
tion fits the Jews like a glove.
His view was that in order to
attain bilingualism a child must
learn the second language before
the age of 12. This, too, is all right
with us. Bar Mitzva happens to be
celebrated at 13. The similarity be-
tween ourselveS and the Welsh in
this respect goes even further.
There are many Welsh parents who
do not themselves speak Welsh but
want their children to speak it.
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Sir Ben was not worried about
"spoiling" the English accent or
overburdening the poor mites.
As to the burden of two langua-
ges, millions of Canadians, Indi-
ans, Belgians, Swiss and others
have two languages, either be-
cause their countries happen to
be composed of more than one
linguistic group or because they
could not make progress without
a European language. If children
of Swiss mountain farmers or
Belgian fishermen or Canadian
lumberjacks can do it, so can
urban Jewish children—provided
their parents cooperate by estab-
lishing the necessary schools
and encouraging bilingualism at
Partial bilingualism has been
tried by the Irish. There was a no-
tion abroad in the early years of
the Irish Republic that complete bi-
lingualism was not feasible, and
that partial bilingualism would suf-
fice to promote Gaelic. It was a
complete failure. English domin-
ates Ireland, with Gaelic not even a
'poor second. Some dedicated poets
write•in Gaelic but few read them.
They live on grants.
But we are pathfinders in this
field and not followers of others.
Eastern European Jewish children
used to be bilingual as a matter of
course. Yet, they used to be the
intellectual equals of the non-Jew-
ish children within their societies.
to say the least. And they eventu-
ally did very well in universities all
over Western Europe and in the
English - speaking world—when they-
had a chance to get there. Alas, too
few ever had that chance.
For some reason, even Zionists
in the West have never sum-
moned enough courage to estab-
lish Hebrew schools—schools with
Hebrew as the teaching language.
They remain reluctant to the
present day. "You cannot do it in
the West," we are often told
-"Why not?" They don't know why
not . . .
Others have done it in the West
very successfully. There is a mag-
nificent French lycee in London,
and many English parents, includ-
ing Anglo-Jewish parents, make
tremendous efforts to find places
for their children in it. Graduates
of this lycee know English as well
as French. In other words, they are
bilingual. There are American
schools in Germany which produce
bilingual graduates. There are
French schools all over the Orient
which are splendidly bilingual. The
teaching language is French while
the native language and its litera-
ture are taught in the native lan-
guage. The rest is done for it by
The time for propaganda has
passed. Whatever propaganda for
Jewish bilingualism is needed is
provided by the success of Israel.
by the victories of its armed forces,
by the achievement of the Hebrew
University, and the Weizmann In-
stitute, Haifa Technion, Bar-Ilan
and the Tel Aviv University . . .
"We need Hebrew schools in the
Diaspora, not propaganda for He-
' brew" said the late Joseph Klaus-
ner when I interviewed him some
20 years ago.
Biculturalism follows in the wake
of bilingualism, of course. Educa-
tion begins in the kindergarten.
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54—Friday, March 28, 1969
THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS
Stimulated by Israel Bond investment funds, all phases of Israel's
chemicals and minerals industries have grown rapidly. The expanded
phosphate plant at Oron utilizes a superior process, whereby calcite
and lime as well as organic matter are removed from the mineral-
bearing rock to produce a higher grade of phosphates. A worker is
shown at the new calcination plant, a key installation in the process.
Exports of phosphates, which totaled 750.000 tons last year, are ex-
pected to reach the million-ton mark annually in the near future with
the aid of Israel Bond funds.
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