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January 16, 2012


Mannie Sherberg

Todah rabah, Rick, for giving us this eloquent speech. Because it reads so eloquently in English, I can only assume that the Hebrew original was -- is -- equally eloquent. Around the turn of the last century, when Yiddishists and Hebraists argued vociferously over the Hebraist claim that Hebrew could become a supple and malleable language comparable to any of the languages of modern Europe, there weren't many Jews who would have bet that a speech like Weizman's would someday be possible. Nowadays, when we tend to focus on Israel's triumphs as a high-tech and entreprneurial state, we overlook the fact that Israel's most remarkable triumph may be the rebirth of Hebrew as a language not only of everyday speech but of poetry, drama, and fiction -- as well as oratory. Linguists tell us that -- around the world -- languages are dying at an alarming rate; some estimate that each decade, a thousand languages -- of the 6,000 now in in use -- give up the ghost. The history of language is beginning to read like a long list of obituaries. Given this backdrop, it's no exaggeration to say that Hebrew's defiance of the trend -- its healthy rebirth at a time when so many other languages have been breathing their last -- is comparable to apples breaking from their stems and soaring upward.

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