My Problem With the Anglos Among Us

We have a substantial number of olim and long-time residents from the English-speaking countries. They have brought with them their traditions and language from Anglo-Saxon lands.

Many of them have mastered the Hebrew language, albeit with English accents, while many others converse daily in English.

I am offended when I walk into a clothing shop and am greeted with “Good morning Sir, how can I be of help to you?”

And my immediate response is “im ata/at mdaber/mdabert ivrit, ani m’adif ldaber b’ivrit. Hi safa ha rasmit she moladetainu”.

The reply, “sorry Adoni, ata tzodek”.

I recall Nahariya in the early 1950’s. The city had been populated by German refugees from the Black Forest towns of Rexingen and Baisingen. “Man spricht nur Deutsch” Every patron at Toutti Loewy’s café or Café Penguin, men sat drinking their coffee mit schlagsahne wearing jackets and ties, and women sat in flowing dresses broad hats and white gloves. Germany had been transferred to the city on the Gaaton canal.

Once in a Vienna café on the Ringstrasse I recognized two couples from Nahariya and to my amazement they were speaking German-accented Hebrew. In Israel they were Germans. In Austria they were Israelis

I recognize that people frequently refer to their native language especially when counting. Achat shtayim shalosh become ein zwei drei, jeden dwa trzi, un deux trois and even wachat tnein talat.

We are a multi-lingual country with jargon and dialects from more than 100 countries of our previous exile. But it would be delightful if our country could remain in the Levant and not be transferred into London, New York or Melbourne. Boker tov is more pleasant than g’dai mate. We do not wish to be Americans or English speakers.

We pioneered for more than a century to revive our Hebrew language.

We have had brilliant speakers of English. Abba Eban, Golda Meier, Dore Gold, the late President Herzog (born in Ireland) and of course, our present Prime Minister Netanyahu who was educated in Philadelphia and Massachusetts in the United States.

We have made our future in the Middle East. Europe and America, Britain, Canada and Australia are memories to be treasured but Hebrew needs to be the daily speech of our Anglo community.

Wherefore did they immigrate to Israel if not to bury the past and to build a new future in a new land speaking an ancient yet modern language?

Ivri..…daber ivrit!

About the Author
Esor Ben-Sorek is a retired professor of Hebrew, Biblical literature & history of Israel. Conversant in 8 languages: Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, German, Spanish, Polish & Dutch. Very proud of being an Israeli citizen. A follower of Trumpeldor & Jabotinsky & Begin.
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