05 November 2007

UNESCO Honors Eliezer Ben-Yehuda

Hey, what do you know?

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has decided to include Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, the "reviver of the Hebrew language," in its list of the people who have had the most influence on world culture. The list includes such notable figures as Galileo Galilei and Charles Darwin.

And more from here:
Eliezer Ben Yehuda became renown throughout the world as the founder of the modern Hebrew language. Born into a religious family, he grew up in a traditional Jewish shtetl in Lithuania and learned both Yiddish and Hebrew as a child. Under the influence of the Jewish Enlightenment (Haskala), he broke with his past. He began to speak Russian in everyday life and read world literature. Ben Yehuda first studied German and French, followed by English, Latin and Arabic.

On the issue of the “Jewish Question,” he was an advocate of the Jewish people’s right to national self-determination and became one of the founding fathers of Zionism. He aimed to create a Jewish national identity within a secular community with modernized Hebrew as a unifying new language. In 1881, at the age of 23, Ben Yehuda immigrated to Palestine and settled in Jerusalem.

From then on he dedicated his life to the re-establishment of the Hebrew language – which for many centuries had been considered almost exclusively a Jewish prayer language – and to its becoming a contemporary and secular language for daily use.