In Hebrew, we did not now come to create something new. Our
language has existed incessantly, grew and developed over a long
time in the way of all languages. Subsequently, its natural
development and its full and systematic growth were stopped. Now
our conditions of life and our renaissance demand that we return to
our language and express our thinking in it according to the needs
of these times.
We want to teach in Hebrew all the new and additional studies and
sciences: will we move backwards to that point where our language
stood or will we develop and grow along with it? Will we wait for
new idioms and expressions to be created by themselves? Ours is not
a primitive language which does not willingly agree to expand. It
is comparable to a scientific language like that of other peoples
which is expanded by scholars and writers who renovate, each in his
own way or in mutual agreement.
A Sister Language
I am surprised at the view that, as we have to broaden our
language, meanwhile writers should use familiar European words.
Will the settlers in the Holy Land speak half-Hebrew and
half-jargon for the next 20 or 30 years? This is like a man fleeing
from the rain into the sea. We are told for the time being to fill
Hebrew with different languages, so that settlers will speak and
learn French and imbibe its literature and spirit.
Ours is the remains of a language preserved for us in holy writings
which are partial and mutilated, not always very clear. Apart from
the great need to renew and to add, we badly need to search for and
clarify the character of our language and its principles.
We must gather from Talmudic literature (the Talmud is the main
source of Jewish religion next to the Bible and was codified from
oral tradition in 500 AD - Ed.) everything that was in use in
Hebrew, and it is wrong to think that this came from foreign
languages just because it was not in the Holy Books. We must gather
those words which did really come from related Semitic languages
which are not alien to ours, and which have been woven into the
Hebrew language. Such words should be clarified and used in light
of our needs.
Such expansion demands joining the past and present of our
language. The means for this are only to be found in a language
close to, similar to and suited to our own language, one which
began its development along with ours, which from time to time was
enlarged but which remained up to this day as a complete entity.
Its natural development was not stopped; as the tongue of its
people, it is alive as a spoken language, creating and expanding in
its own character in a spirit appropriate to it and to similar
languages. That language is the Arabic language.
The Languages Separate
These two languages, Hebrew and Arabic, are two branches emanating
from one trunk, from one prior language, from which they inherited
their characteristics. The two did not grow and expand to the same
extent. One surpassed the other, Arabic spreading widely and
branching out so that it belongs to many peoples, developing
uninterruptedly and continuing to advance and improve according to
the needs of the times and the people. The development of Hebrew
was stopped and afterwards its growth was meager.
These two branches were at first similar in their traits, qualities
and styles, and most of the words and idioms were also similar.
Afterwards, when the two peoples (or families) began to change in
accordance with their life conditions and countries - and according
to the natural inclination for change inherent in all living
organisms - the languages also began to separate, and distance
themselves from each other. Arabic became the property of many
peoples living to the east and to the south of Eretz
Yisrael/Palestine - these were the families and tribes called
Kedemites or Easterners - and continued to spread out southward
along with these tribes, and filled all the Arab countries.
Concepts began to change according to the development of the spirit
of the people. Many words were added and also changed in each
language. Yet Arabic better preserved those characteristics which
it inherited from the early language, while Hebrew abandoned many
of them and we now only have traces of them. These rudiments which
are found in our language will prove the affinity and the unity of
origin of Hebrew and Arabic.
Arabic and Hebrew - New Contact
In the eighteenth century, there was a renaissance of Arabic and
there arose a strong movement in Syria and Egypt. Trade expanded,
Arab people made contact with European peoples, there arose a
longing for the sciences, schools and colleges were established,
and scholars and scientists came from Western countries and paid
attention to expanding the Arabic language in its own spirit and
form. They took from ancient books all that was good and correct
and introduced, as was imperative, words from the general sciences
which had been disseminated all over the world. The language is
still in a stage of development and expansion.
At that time, when a literary movement like this was arising and
intensifying among the Arabs, our people began to return to their
land, with their heart full of hope for reviving their people and
its language. The Hebrew language began to expand very slowly and
to occupy a worthy place in studies and in the sciences. In the
country and abroad, there is daily growth both of the will and the
need to broaden the language and clarify what is unclear in
And now, once again we come into contact with the Arabic language,
our sister language. We find a great vocabulary including many of
the words in our language and we want to know how existing words
branched out and constituted other words for concepts which we also
need - in short, we are using Arabic as a means of reviving our
language. We don't have enough people who know Arabic fully, its
literary development and its affinity to Hebrew, where it suits our
language and where it is opposed, though we should be careful in
using Arabic as an aid.
It should be understood that I have no reservations over
introducing into our language words from the general sciences which
have been accepted into all literature, and recognized words which
have entered every language, and for which we have no substitute.
However, this requires great caution, good taste and sensitivity,
so that each person shouldn't act as he thinks fit, or since he
doesn't know anything like it in our language, or because he likes
the European word better. Why should we not be careful over the
style of our language? Is everything permissible with the European
languages? Are they closer to the spirit of our language than
These extracts were selected by the editors and on their