Acquiring knowledge of the Hebrew Bible and comprehension of the language are major aims of the Israeli education system. Yet for most students, it fails on both counts. This article proposes that these failures are closely connected: both are rooted in an erroneous linkage between Biblical Hebrew and the language spoken in modern Israel. Modern Hebrew – or more appropriately: “Israeli” – is a hybrid of Hebrew, Yiddish and other languages. Its grammar is distinct from that of Hebrew, and it has been the mother tongue of most Israeli-born Jews for about a hundred years.
There is a fundamental difference between the acquisition and usage of mother tongues and those of any other language. Since Biblical Hebrew is a foreign language for modern Israelis, it ought to be taught as such. Israeli should be acknowledged as a legitimate, distinct tongue.
©2014 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin/Boston