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September 15, 1989 - Image 74

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-09-15

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

I NEWS

DETROIT ZIONIST FEDERATION-FORUM

The Propaganda War Against Israel
- WHAT CAN WE DO?

Panel .
Journalist
SHIRLEE IDEN
REED RUBINSTEIN , Zionist Organization of America
Mizrachi
HERSCHEL SCHLUSSEL, MD
MILTON STEINHARDT, MD.. Editor, "Zionist Viewpoint"
Moderator .
Hadassah
KAREN A. KATZ
COME - and Join the Discussion with Your Comments & Questions

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Hebrew Language
Binds Israel Together

BEN-ZION FISCHLER

Special to The Jewish News

A

ccording to sages, one
of the reasons the chil-
dren of Israel were
redeemed from Egypt was
that they did not change their
language.
Indeed, despite distances of
time and place, the Hebrew
language — the tongue of the
prophets — remained the liv-
ing language that has linked
Jewry the world over
throughout the ages.
Despite being scattered as a
result of religious persecution
and wars or due to hardships,
lack of livelihood or work op-
portunities, Jews persistently
carried within them the
nucleus of the rebirth of
Hebrew, the language of
today.
In past centuries Hebrew
was used mainly for religious
purposes and, to a lesser ex-
tent, as a means of com-
munication when Jews from
different countries met and
had no common language, or
as a "code language" in the
market-place (so as not to be
understood by "outsiders").
Nevertheless, in the 19th cen-
tury, Hebrew was taught in
many Western Jewish com-
munities as a literary
language and actually spoken
in Jerusalem.
In this atmosphere,
Lithuanian-born writer and
teacher Eliezer Ben Yehuda,
before making Palestine his
home in 1881, wrote about
the necessity of Jewish na-
tionhood, with Hebrew as its
national language. Supported
and encouraged by groups of
revivalists, he succeeded in
his endeavors, despite strong
opposition from ultra-
religious circles who were
adamant that the holy tongue
should be reserved for sacred
purposes only. Gradually, as a
result of what was essential-
ly a one-man revolution,
Hebrew became the language
of the Jewish population of
Palestine. Kindergartens,
schools • and teachers'
seminaries were established
where all subjects were
taught in Hebrew.
It was not, however, without
a bitter struggle that Hebrew
gained recognition in the
years preceding the Jewish
state. The German
Hilfsverein and the Alliance
Francaise established schools
in which they considered it
imperative to teach certain
subjects in French or Ger-
man. THis was not viewed
favorably, and to their sur-

prise they met with a wave of
opposition on the part of the
Yishuv, the pre-state Jewish
community in Palestine.
When, for instance, in 1913,
the Hilfsverein planned a
technical high school (the pre-
sent Thchnion) in Haifa, they
considered it advisable to
teach technical subjects in
German.
In view of the still
undeveloped state of Hebrew,
the reaction of the Yishuv
was unexpectedly violent.
Thousands of children and
teachers left the schoolrooms
to hold their lessons in the
open air in a gesture of de-
fiance. In the end, the Yishuv
won the language struggle,
the first of many for the full
recognition of Hebrew.
By the end of the First
World War, there were some

•4

II

Because of a one-
man revolution,
Hebrew became
the language of a
nation.

57,000 Jews in Palestine. By
the end of 1922, the number
rose to 84,000, in 1931 to
175,000, in 1942 to 484,000;
and in 1948 (on the eve of the
establishment of the State of
Israel) to 650,000.
In 1947, only 22,000
newcomers arrived in Eretz
Israel, whereas during the
1948 — newly 700,000 settled
in the State of Israel. That is,
in the 31/2 years after the state
was founded, the number of
Jews doubled. These new-
comers came from Algeria
and Rumania, Poland and the
U.S., Great Britain and India,
South Africa and China. They
did not speak Hebrew and
came from different cultural
backgrounds and social
strata.
The immensity of the ab-
sorption process can be ap-
preciated upon reading a re-
cent statement issued by the
Australian authorities that
declared that an immigration
of 2.5 percent per year was
beyond the capabilities of
Australia — rich, vast
Australia, living at peace and
without surrounding enemy
countries!
It was imperative that these
ohm (immigrants) master
Hebrew — the means by
which to understand and
become involved in the
cultural, social, economic and
political life of Israel.
Apart from the urgent need
to assist these immigrants in

-1

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