October 13, 2016

Today in History: Miraculous resurrection of Hebrew after 1400 years in exile (1881)

John RobsonResident Historian

On Oct. 13 of 1881, the first casual conversation in Hebrew took place in over 1400 years.

It was the tiny but determined beginning of the almost miraculous resurrection of that language that accompanied the almost miraculous resurrection of Israel after many long centuries of exile.

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commented 2016-10-16 01:38:15 -0400
Laila Tov my friend.
commented 2016-10-16 00:59:04 -0400
Historically there was the invasion of the sea peoples and other major people movements like the Hyksos. So who knows how far the movements went? Look at the natives in North America. If they actually did come over the Bering Straight it was quite a trip. All the way to South America, apparently.
commented 2016-10-16 00:24:15 -0400
I wonder sometimes if people groups moved much more quickly,over great distances, than we ever realized . The history of man is amazing.
commented 2016-10-15 15:38:54 -0400
Terry, I agree about how intertwined languages can be. Estonian and Finnish have no nearby cognates. Their closest cousins are in the Middle East somewhere, I g forget exactly. Lithuanian is related to Sanskrit and Greek. It goes waaaaaay back. I learned a little of it but just enough to buy bread and embarrass myself doing so.
commented 2016-10-15 10:59:06 -0400
Al Peterson; it’s amazing how intertwined languages can be. One of my favorite commentators on language and all things Jewish is author and host of "Deprogram Program.com “, Sha’I ben Tekoa”. But still, because I lack patience ,it’s all Greek to me.
commented 2016-10-14 23:52:24 -0400
Yiddish is a European language related to Low German. They can kind of understand each other. My wife and I were watching a WWII movie with Jews speaking Yiddish. She grew up in a Mennonite home where her parents spoke Low German quite often. So as we’re watching the movie she suddenly bursts out and says. “I can understand some of what they’re saying.” She could also understand some Dutch since they are all some kind of cognate languages.

The Low German speaking Mennonite guys in seminary discovered that they could understand the Afrikkans used as examples in a text book written by a South African author. Lithuania, where I went to teach in the early 90’s, had a very long Jewish history- hundreds of years. I remember being stymied in a bookstore with a my rudimentary Hebrew. Then I discovered that the text was Yiddish- a european language – written in Hebrew characters. Most baffling.

Thanks for the history lesson. Languages, although not my forte, are most interesting.
commented 2016-10-13 21:36:47 -0400
Remember, today is the 99th anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima’s last appearance to the three children.
Next year marks the 100th anniversary. Big event.

Now THAT was a miracle!
commented 2016-10-13 21:32:07 -0400
Always nice hearing your historical stories.
Gives us a break from the insanity of today!
Maybe if others listened to these facts, we would be better off.
commented 2016-10-13 20:13:45 -0400
Did you see the miracle? Happens everyday if you look
commented 2016-10-13 18:03:04 -0400

Aramaic was the language of Judah.
commented 2016-10-13 17:46:41 -0400
I may have inverted the Christian and Muslim stats. There are a lot of different sources out there and sometimes hard to know if you’re getting it right.
commented 2016-10-13 17:33:37 -0400
It’s never a waste of time to listen to John Robson. My question is what did the Jerusalem Jews speak ? It wouldn’t have been Yiddish since they weren’t European Jews. An Ottoman census in 1905 shows 65% Jew, 20%Christian, and 15% Muslim. Just typing out loud.
commented 2016-10-13 17:21:27 -0400
A fascinating moment in history, to be sure.
commented 2016-10-13 17:03:24 -0400
An interesting commentary – as usual! – Dr. Robson. I’m at a loss to think of any other language that has been, in effect, resurrected after such a long period of neglect that was then turned into a widely-used spoken and written language (at least in Israel).

Of course the Hebrew spoken daily in Israel is not really the same Hebrew as was spoken in biblical times. Or rather, it has a LOT of new vocabulary in it. After all, the Hebrew spoken by Moses or Jesus didn’t have words for “automobile”, “electricity”, “cell phone”, “computer”, the names of the modern countries, and many thousands of other words that we use today.