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BEN YEHUDA, ELIEZER (1858-1922).

Father of the modern Hebrew language, Ben Yehuda’s life was an example of single-minded devotion to a cause: the revival of the ancient Hebrew language.

At the age of 19, Ben Yehuda left Lithuania, where he had been brought up in a traditional environment, to study medicine in Paris. At first he was attracted to socialism. Later, the struggle of the Balkan countries to gain their independence made him aware of the need for a Jewish national homeland. In 1880, Ben Yehuda decided to settle in Jerusalem where he immediately set out to realize his cherished ideal of adapting the Hebrew language to daily use. He was subjected to ridicule by many people who considered theIt took Ben Yehuda many years of persistent work to convince the skeptics that Hebrew could be revived. His home was the first in Palestine in which Hebrew was the only language spoken.

Ben Yehuda concentrated all his efforts on his monumental lifework: The Dictionary of the Hebrew Language, Old and New, which appeared initially in fifteen volumes. The sixteenth and seventeenth volumes appeared in 1959. Numerous words for daily use were coined by Ben Yehuda and became part of modern Hebrew. Ben Yehuda also published newspapers, composed textbooks for Hebrew schools, and was one of the founders of the Committee for the Hebrew language, now the Academy for the Hebrew Language.

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