If Russian is a language of snow
With its soft, whispering sounds
Sh, Shch, tz
Rocking, subtle, calming
That evoke snowflakes falling on endless plains,
Grandmothers singing lullabies,
Secrets exchanged under staircases
Careful not to be overheard by ever-present informers,
And the heavy, resonant sounds like oo, yoo, p, g
Are like the thudding footsteps that sink into snowbanks
Under a grey winter sky
Wrapped in a thick fur coat
Then Hebrew is the language of the sun
Clear, simple and direct
Almost without exceptions
Rough and brusque likes its Arabic cousin
But attenuated by ripe dates, honey and sweet oranges,
Confident, warm, always conscious of feminine and masculine,
Assertive (future is used instead of imperative- if Moti or Sharon or Kobi tells you to do something, you surely will!)
Connected to the past, like the sign telling you to give your seat on the bus to elders
That is lifted word for word from the Bible: מפני שיבה תקום
Yet full of new modern words created from ancient roots,
Echoes of the prophets, peppered with hints of Greek and Persian.
Compact, efficient, without declensions or complicated tenses.
Everyone has a nickname, every army term has an abbreviation.
Every word has its three letter root (shoresh) and every verb type is an “edifice” (binyan).
We must be on alert for the next war, for an uncertain future.
No time to dally with four or five synonyms
We have deserts to make bloom, sea water to desalinate,
Neighborhoods to build, a society to craft, curly haired beauties to seduce…
Come hear the shouting in the marketplace, hear the prayers wafting upward on Friday night,
A re-born language, the heritage of a stubborn, miraculous, resilient people.
The above was inspired by Hebrew Union College Hebrew Immersion week and the DAU film project in Paris