Today in World History: October 13th

The first conversation in Hebrew, held between Eliezer Ben-Yehuda and his friends, happened on this day in 1881. Part of the revival of Hebrew as the official language of Israel, it marked the beginning of Hebrew’s restoration as a spoken tongue, as previous attempts to revive it focused on the literary aspect of the language. As Jewish nationalism across Europe grew in the late nineteenth century, a small community dedicated to reviving the language grew, despite it being a strictly biblical language since the second century. Eliezer Ben-Yehuda was one of those most dedicated to the effort; he moved to Jerusalem that same year, and started a Hebrew school, determined to spread the language. Despite his efforts, by 1902 only ten families had been persuaded to speak the language at home, but the usage of Hebrew began to grow in other parts of the area. By 1909, Tel Aviv, the first Hebrew city and modern Israel’s largest city was founded, and more and more people began using Hebrew in their day to day lives. Campaigns and organisations were founded to spread and protect the integrity of the language, and by the end of the First World War, Hebrew was cemented as the official language of the area. Today, it is spoken by more than seven million people across the world, the only case where a dead language has been revived to be spoken by millions.

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