Yirmiyahu Danzig
Yirmiyahu Danzig

Between Exile & Emancipation: Language & Liberation

Jonah Adam, 2015
Jonah Adams, 2015

When it comes to language, some anti-Zionist activists have expressed the notion that the revival of Hebrew as the mother tongue for millions of Jews, is something we should regard as less than miraculous. Rather, they express disdain for the now popular use of a language they describe as oppressive and colonial in its essence. And almost to punctuate their disdain for Hebrew as the mother tongue for millions of Israelis, many of these anti-Zionists now celebrate the Jewish languages of exile to the point of ridiculing Hebraism.

Perhaps they express this sudden appreciation for the languages of our exile and disdain for Hebrew because they (consciously or subconsciously) understand that language is the vehicle through which we experience reality. It gives expression to our innermost feelings; however mundane or meaningful. It can serve as a portal to our past, and paint our most vivid predictions of the future.

The Jewish reality for at least 2000 years prior to the modern mass return to Zion, was one in which our linguistic liberty was colonized, curtailed, and in some cases robbed. Conquest and exile forced our tribe to adapt or die.

Our Hebrew thoughts, while preserved in letters, had to be transmuted into foreign tongues. Our language that was birthed by sovereign Semites was sent into exile; clothed by a creolization that would come to define in many ways the Diasporic experience.

Jonah Adam, 2015

Juhuri, Ladino, Yiddish, Judeo-Arabic, and so many more that kept the legacy of Judea alive in our hearts and minds. A legacy and heritage that prophesied a day when the children of Judea would return to her hills. A day when those hills would once again be filled with children, Hebrew children, speaking the language of the Hebrews.

We owe a debt of gratitude to the languages we created in exile. They sustained us. I would even say we have a responsibility to preserve them. However, we cannot forget that central to the purpose for which they sustained us was the preparation for the eventual revival of the Hebrew people in our homeland, speaking Hebrew. A miracle, we now are blessed to experience.

Judean child reads Hebrew inscription from Second Temple remains.  Shabi Spero, 2021
About the Author
Yirmiyahu Danzig is an activist for Jewish and indigenous rights. He is the Director of content and education for the Herut Movement in the World Zionist Organization and the former Outreach Coordinator for StandWithUs San Diego. He served as a squad commander in a counterterrorism unit of the Israeli Border Police. He has a B.A. in Political Science, Homeland Security, and Public Diplomacy from the IDC Herzliya.