Thursday, June 6, 2013

Israel Journal VIII: The Word

Eliezer Ben-Yehuda
Eliezer Ben-Yuhuda created the first modern Hebrew dictionary. It may be hard to believe but conversational Hebrew is only around l00 years old. In their writings contemporary Israeli writers like Yehoshua, Oz and Grossman convey all the nuances and idioms of languages which have existed for hundreds, even thousands of years. It’s partly somewhat easier since modern Hebrew has only three tenses, past, present and imperative--this last significantly being the way the idea of the future is conveyed. Ultra Orthodox Jews supposedly don’t accept modern Hebrew since for the them the Messiah has yet to come. They speak inYiddish and pray in Hebrew, but de facto it’s widely accepted that they speak Hebrew too. Of course language is a key issue in the Holy Land. There are the words spoken by the inhabitants of by the residents of the four sectors of Jerusalem (Arab, Armenian, Jewish and Christian). But then there is the Word. God gave Moses the Ten Commandments. Christians believe that Jesus conveyed the word of God. Culture shock is not an apt word to describe walking around the embattled old quarter of Jerusalem which has been in Israel hands since the ’67 war. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is around the corner from the Dome of the Rock. Russian Orthodox priests in long black garb straddle past black hatted Jews and then there are the tourists from every continent on earth. It’s a little like the Tower of Babel and the linguistic complexity is just one other element that separates men from other men and ultimately God. One thinks of the many failed attempts to create universal languages. Esperanto was one. If the Messiah who the Ultra Orthodox wait for finally does come, perhaps all the varying tongues will meld into one massive technologic interface.

1 comment:

  1. Esperanto is certainly not a failure. Indeed, I see Esperanto as a remarkable success story. It has survived wars and revolutions, economic recessions and occasional persecutions, and continues to attract learners and users.


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