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The Difference of Languages within Hebrew and Its Evolution into Spoken Hebrew

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Hebrew is a language native to Israel, spoken by over 9 million people worldwide, of which over 5 million are in Israel. Historically, it is regarded as the language of the Israelites and their ancestors, although the language was not referred to by the name Hebrew in the Tanakh. The earliest examples of written Paleo-Hebrew date from the 10th century BCE. Hebrew belongs to the West Semitic branch of the Afro-asiatic language family.

Modern Hebrew is one of the 2 official languages of the State of Israel (the other being Modern Standard Arabic), while premodern Hebrew is used for prayer or study in Jewish communities around the world today. Ancient Hebrew is also the liturgical tongue of the Samaritans, while modern Hebrew or Arabic is their vernacular. As a foreign language, it is studied mostly by Jews and students of Judaism and Israel, and by archaeologists and linguists specializing in the Middle East and its civilizations, as well as by theologians in Christian seminaries.

The Hebrew language is the thread that has bound the Jewish people together for millennia, both in liturgy and literature, and, in ancient times, as a spoken language. In the history of modern Zionism, however, if there is 1 event more miraculous than the establishment of the State of Israel, it is the revival of Hebrew as its common tongue.

To make this revitalization possible, an uncommon organization was formed: The Academy of the Hebrew Language, the Israeli body with legislated authority to study, guard, and guide the development of the Hebrew language.

The miracle of its rejuvenation today is credited to the work of journalist/scholar Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, often called the Father of Modern Hebrew. There were other Hebrew grammarians, scholars, & teachers of general topics. A local scholar of the Hebrew language is our very own Rabbi Michael Harvey who will teach Hebrew at the University of the Virgin Islands, St. Thomas campus.

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