A commenter asks about the creation of Hebrew for the modern Israeli state:
You know Robert, I have always wondered about how Hebrew was revived between the 19th and 20th centuries. After all, Yiddish had been such an important language for Jewish folks in Europe for centuries, and it has all but vanished into the bins of history.
Obviously both the holocaust and the creation of Israel played a major role in this. Yet still, how was a language that was basically only used by Rabbis and in religious settings, brought back as the national language of a new nation state, full of people from all over the place?
That seems like an incredible feat to me.
It’s a very interesting story. The language never really died to be honest, because Jews everywhere always had to learn it in their religious studies. But they had to invent a ton of new words for new things. They mostly just invented them out of existing words rather than borrowings. It was a national project, and I guess it involved some linguists.
It was a great success in language revival. Yiddish was considered, but it was tainted as the language of the dead, of the cowards who went to their graves without fighting, etc. The Israelis were fighters and survivors.
Yiddish was also the language of the ghetto, and the Israelis were going to get rid of ghettoism, get out in the fields and be working class and peasant Jews, get their hands dirty, etc. Yiddish was the language of Jews who would not work and get their hands dirty because it was too good for them.
Also Yiddish had been the language of the anti-Jewish nationalists in the USSR in their Jewish enclave in Siberia. Hebrew was seen as the language of Judaism and Jewish nationalism, while Yiddish was the proper language for the Jewish nationality of the USSR. The USSR even had many publications in Yiddish. No state promoted Yiddish as much as the Soviets did. Some anti-Semites.
Also Yiddish was only the language of the European Jews, and the new Israel was supposed to be the homeland of the Sephardic and Mizrachi Jews also, who did not speak Yiddish but often could speak some Hebrew. Hebrew was the unifying language of all the Jews. Also, from the start, Israel was very much a religious state, and still is.
The religious were given tremendous power in the state. As the language of Judaism, Hebrew was probably favored over Yiddish. Yiddish was also tainted as being the language of the Jewish atheists, Commies, secular rabble-rousers, etc.