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August 22, 2014

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PAGE 16A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, AUGUST 22, 2014 Modern Hebrew--The past and future of a revitalized language, by Dr. Norman Berdichevsky, UCF Hebrew professor; ISBN 978-0-7864- 9492-7. McFarland Publish- ing, June 2014. The vision of a modern Hebrew eventually came to animate a large part of the Jewish world, and gave new confidence and pride to Jewish youth during the most diffi- cultperiod of modern history, and infusing Zionism with a dynamic cultural content. This book examines the many changes that occurred in the transition to modern Hebrew, acquainting new students of the language with its role as a model for other national re- vivals, the"mechanics" of the language, and explaining how it overcame many obstacles to become a spoken vernacular. Also discussed are the growing dilemmas facing the language arising from the fact that Israelis and Jews in the Diaspora "don't speak the same language," while Israeli Arabs and Jews often do, How did Hebrew become a modern language? How did it win out over Yiddish? How different are modern and biblical Hebrew? What has acquisition of Hebrew meant for the Arab minority in Israel? How did Hebrew inspire the Irish, Welsh, Maltese, Gaelic, Baque and Catalan languages? How has ignorance of modern Hebrew by critics put Israel at a disadvantage? Over the past two gen- erations, there has been a steady decline among many American Jews in the cultural and emotional identification they feel with modern Hebrew literature, song and dance, elements that once drew them close to the Zionistprojectand the emergence of a modern national Israeli culture. Many tourists in Israel miss out on much that is not available by instant translations. All laws, debates in the Knesset, the legal cases in court, and applications for patents, are, of course in Hebrew. Israeli affairs portrayed by the me- dia in the Diaspora are often based on highly selected and fragmentary extracts of pub- lished material translated and occasionally mistranslated from Hebrew. Although many people with an interest in Israel are aware of the importance of the revival of Hebrew as a spoken language and may recognize the name of pioneer linguist Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, they do not appreciate the difficul- ties involved or the exciting story of what challenges were posed before the eventual ac- complishment of what almost all linguists had declared im- possible. This is a remarkable story that deserves to be told to a mass audience. Moreover, it is the story of the three generations long world-wide rivalry with Yiddish and the techniques used to make He- brew into a language capable of handling all the demands of a modern society. Not know- ing modern Hebrew, neither they, nor their children are familiar with Israeli authors, playwrights, movie directors, actors, singers, pop singers, athletes, or the standings of Israel's football (soccer) clubs. A dynamic nation has been created with a determined belief in a common origin, destiny and struggle with a unifying common language, adapted and modernized by the only people who identi- fied with it and its ancient homeland. Anyone wishing to understand modern Israel, its history and development toward a more inclusive soci- ety for all its people should be familiar with Modern Hebrew and how this language grew and changed over the past mere 130 years through chal- lenges and dilemmas result- ing in startling achievements and new prospects. Moreover, and in spite of the current crisis over Gaza, and violent demonstrations (condemned by almost all the mayors of Arab towns in Israel), the trend among Israeli Arabs greater educa- tional and career opportuni- ties through Hebrew and the rate of proficiency and even fluency among them has steadily increased. It is no accident that few Arab Israeli men seek marriage partners with women from the West Bank who are much more conservative, not likely to work outside the home, and not proficient in Hebrew. It comes as a surprise to many foreign observers that nine of 14 universities, includ- ing AI-Azhar Islamic Univer- sity, offer courses in modern Hebrew with approximately 20,000 students, more than are studying the language in the United States[ They are majoring in Middle Eastern Studies. Mounir Mahmoud, an Egyptian journalist told the Israeli daily Ma'ariv that between 2,000 and 3,000 students graduate each year with bachelor's degrees from Hebrew studies courses. He explained that Egyptian students "are exposed to Is- raeli culture and history, and unlike their colleagues who see Israel as only a source of hatred and conquest, they learn about it from a different angle altogether." In a journalistic scoop on July 2, 2013, Israeli reporter Guy Zohar interviewed Egyp- tian woman journalist and political activist Heba Abu Seif on Israeli live television. Her perfect and fluent Hebrew surprised many viewers and is an optimistic sign. Just as Israelis could now view events with direct commentary from on the spot sources in their own language, it portends a revolutionary transforma- tion that in the future, Arab opinion about Israel will no longer rely entirely on its own traditional and highly biased accounts. Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, while still a student in Paris in 1880 (when 7 million Jews spoke Yiddish and no one spoke Hebrew as their native or primary language) undertook a brief sojourn in Algeria for his health (he would later die of tuberculosis in 1923).While there, he was outraged to read in what was the leading peri- odical in Jerusalem. ha-Sha- har, an editorial rejecting the possibility of making Hebrew into a living language capable of serving as the vehicle Of a modern nation. He Wrote with incredible prescience: Today we may be moribund, but tomorrow we will surely awaken to life; today we may be in a strange land but tomor- row we will dwell in the land of our fathers; today we may be speaking alien tongues, but tomorrow we shall speak Hebrew." About the Author Norman Berdichevsky is a professional translator, free- lance writer and lecturer of history and culture for several major cruise lines. Formerly a lecturer of Judaic studies at the University of Central Florida, he is the author of several books and available for talks with power point presentation on the book. He lives in Orlando, Florida. Brad Goldberger Sales Consultant Cell: 407-697-8060 TOYOTA Central Florida Toyota - Scion 11020 S. Orange Blossom Trail Orlando, FL 32837 407-472-5200 Please call to schedule an appointment for a no-nonsense & hassle-free Sales experience No games No pressure