Hanukkah, Thanksgiving and the Hebrew Language
This year, two great holidays will be celebrated at the same time: Hanukkah and Thanksgiving. On the 25th of Kislev, the Jewish world will celebrate Hanukkah, a holiday that commemorates the victory of theMaccabees over the Greek suppression of Judaism. This year, the 25th of Kislev happens to be on Thursday, November 28, 2013.
Many Jewish families, celebrating the great miracle of Hanukkah and thanking God for the heroic victory, will make the obvious connection with Thanksgiving, a holiday that focuses on appreciation.
Hanukkah symbolizes our struggle against different oppressors throughout history. Judah Maccabee and his brothers led the Jewish rebellion against the Greeks and Greek culture. Today, more than 2000 years after the Maccabean revolt, we in Israel still struggle to maintain an authentic Israeli culture based proudly on Jewish and Zionist values vs. Western culture. One attribute of any culture is its language. Hebrew is the language of the Jewish people and the language of the State of Israel. However, many English words have found their way into our daily life, such as "cool," "Oh my God," "BFF," "super," "hi," “bye," and many more. Most Israeli clothing stores have American, French, or Italian names that are written in those languages. Many restaurants are called after French dishes.
Eliezer Ben Yehuda, credited with the revival of Hebrew as a modern language spoken by a renascent Jewish nation, died in Jerusalem on Hanukkah of 1922. At the age of 17, Ben Yehuda had an overwhelming revelation, or as he described it: "it was as if the heavens had suddenly opened, and a clear incandescent light flashed before my eyes, and a mighty inner voice sounded in my ears: the renascence of Israel on its ancestral soil. The more the nationalist concept grew in me, the more I realized what a common language is to a nation..."
Eliezer moved to Jerusalem in 1881, and with his wife Deborah, established the first Hebrew-speaking home. Their son Ben-Zion was the first child in modern times to be nurtured with Hebrew as his native language; he wasn’t allowed to play with any of his friends since they weren’t fluent in Hebrew.
Soon after his arrival in Jerusalem, Ben-Yehuda accepted a teaching position at the Alliance School, which became the first school where some courses were taught in Hebrew. Ben-Yehuda founded the Hebrew Language Academy and worked 18 hours a day on his Complete Dictionary of Ancient and Modern Hebrew. In 1910, he published the first of six volumes and after his death his widow and son Ehud continued publishing his manuscript, a task that was completed in 1959 (17 volumes). The dictionary lists all the words used in Hebrew literature from the time of Abraham to modern times. Eliezer Ben-Yehuda was fortunate enough to see his dream become a reality: "A modern nation speaking an ancient tongue."
Today, Ben Yehuda Street is one of the busiest shopping/dining areas in Jerusalem, attracting tourists from all over the world.
In 1953, 31 years after Ben Yehuda died, well-known musician Ehud Banai was born in Jerusalem. Banai comes from a very famous Israeli family of artists, actors and musicians. Banai has become one of the most influential and appreciated artists in Israel. His first album, Ehud Banai and the Refugees, was considered by many to have forever changed Israeli music, and it has served as an inspiration for generations of musicians since .
In one of his songs Banai calls to:
"Speak up the language of the Hebrewmen
Loud and clear, the language of the Hebrewmen
It is the language of the prophets
Of the sign up on the wall
It is old and sacred
It will open up your soul"
To listen to the Hebrew Man song with subtitles in English: