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Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Hebrew, The Language

There is an entire discussion in Allison's wonderful blog, about "Anglos" (English speaking immigrants--that's us, folks!) who arrive in Israel with their arriviste attitude towards The Land and their people.(See An Unsealed Room, http://allisonkaplansommer.blogmosis.com/)

Much of the discussion boiled down to this: Anglos arrive in Israel and think everyone should speak English. What, learn Hebrew? Moi? The chief gripe was that even those who survived ulpan to speak some basic everyday Hebrew never bothered to become fluent in speaking, reading or writing. This apparent disdain for communication in our ancient tongue is also apparently accompanied by an attitude of "I'm here--and that's enough."

I don't recall any of the Patriarchs adding the last phrase to their response to The Almighty. I think the proper answer is "Hineini" with the implied, humble, 'what-would-You-like-me-to-do-next?'

This is only funny because in the States, Yanks have very little patience with people who immigrate in and fail to learn the local patois perfectly. Much American nativist sentiment focuses quite unfairly on the inability of immigrants to pick up unaccented, fluent English. Woe-betide the poor old mother who still speaks only Chinese, Spanish, Albanian, etc and hasn't learned "American" (otherwise known as 'English' after the people who invented it). Coming from a nation with such high expectations of immigrant assimilation and mastery of the native tongue, I should think that American olim would certainly hold themselves to the same high standards their birthplace has always held the American immigrant to....

So, to my fellow American olim, let me add my two agarot worth: LEARN the language! Learn to speak it, to read it, to write it. DON'T speak English in front of a mixed-lingual crowd where not everyone understands -- that's unspeakably rude. Speak the Lingua Franca of the Land -- Hebrew. Practice, practice, practice and get out there and practice.

Frankly, I'm terrified of being quasi-illiterate in Hebrew. I'm making aliyah with grown and almost grown children, so I'm not some spring chicken with a student's open mind. My mind is old, decrepit, burned out and sometimes a bit foggy--but I want to rise to the challenge, even though I'm afraid it will make me cry when I flail about in frustration. But I WANT to be Israeli, and being Israeli means ani medaberet Ivrit.


Blogger Emah S said...

Kol hakavod lach! Gam ani midaberet ivrit! N'daber biyachad!

I think there is a big difference though to people who can speak the language and to people who don't learn it at all. my friend's mom in Miami speaks like 3 words in English and the woman has been here for 25 years! It's not that she knows it and prefers to speak spanish, she doesn't know enough to have a basic 'cocktail party' type of conversation! sad, and annoying. Definitely makes me want to do as you say and immerse and speak!!! nice post. hope all is well........sus

Tuesday, April 25, 2006 at 1:55:00 PM GMT+3  
Blogger aliyah06 said...

Hi, Susie--

the Husband made his reservation today and it turns out that the only reasonably priced ticket on the only airline that will take the dog in the cabin without an act of Congress leaves on May 22--about a week before the earliest I thought I'd have to say good-bye....I think I'm going to go ahead of the NBN flight--I really think the flight will be a gas but I don't want to hang here for two and a half weeks for the first flight, even assuming we get on the earliest flight....no letter yet....

Thanks for the encouragement! I'm looking forward to getting down the basics as fast as possible, and I'm thinking of getting one of those electronic dictionary things where you punch in the word and it translates it for you.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006 at 4:31:00 AM GMT+3  
Blogger Lady-Light said...

Kol HaKavod on your making Aliyah in 2006. Am assuming that because of your choice of name. Ditto to Ivrit. It is imperative for every Jew to learn Ivrit, the language of his/her people for thousands of years, and Lishon HaKodesh of the Torah.
We made Aliyah years ago (and, unfortunately, iridah since then). But now have four kids living in Israel. G-d willing will return...
But, as my background is 'Ivrit sefat ha-am AND sefat ha-EM, I also raised my kids on Ivrit as their first language, and they all arrived in Israel 'dovrei Ivrit', more or less (some more, some less!).
Hatzlachah Rabah! (I posted a link to your blog on my blog. We Aliyah-niks need to stick together!)

Monday, May 1, 2006 at 8:08:00 AM GMT+3  
Blogger Ba'alat Teshuva said...

I hope this isn't too ignorant, but I thought the "ancient" language of our people was Aramaic and that Hebrew was reserved for the Torah and prayers. I could have sworn that I read that somewhere. Something about a controversy when Ben-Yehuda started creating Modern Hebrew because some people thought that Hebrew was a holy language not to be used for everyday communication...

Sunday, June 4, 2006 at 10:12:00 AM GMT+3  

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