is a Semitic language of the Afro-Asiatic language family.
Culturally, it is considered a Jewish
in its modern form is spoken by more than seven million people in Israel while Classical Hebrew has been used for prayer or study in Jewish communities around the world for over two thousand years.
It is one of the official languages of Israel
, along with Arabic.
Ancient Hebrew is also the liturgical tongue of the Samaritans, while modern Hebrew or Palestinian Arabic is their vernacular, though today about 700 Samaritans remain. As a foreign language it is studied mostly by Jews and students of Judaism and Israel, archaeologists and linguists specializing in the Middle East and its civilizations, by theologians, and in Christian seminaries.
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The modern word "Hebrew"
is derived from the word "ivri" which in turn may be based upon the root "`avar" (òáø) meaning "to cross over". The related name Eber occurs in Genesis 10:21 and possibly means "the one who traverses".
In the Bible "Hebrew" is called Yehudith (éäåãéú) because Judah (Yehuda) was the surviving kingdom at the time of the quotation, late 8th century BCE (Is 36, 2 Kings 18). In Isaiah 19:18, it is also called the "Language of Canaan" (ùÀÒôÇú ëÀÌðÇòÇï)
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The core of the Tanakh (the Hebrew Bible)
is written in Classical Hebrew, and much of its present form is specifically the dialect of Biblical Hebrew that scholars believe flourished around the 6th century BCE, around the time of the Babylonian exile. For this reason, Hebrew has been referred to by Jews as Leshon HaKodesh - "The Holy Tongue", since ancient times.
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Hebrew persevered along the ages as the main language for written purposes by all Jewish communities around the world for a large range of uses (poetry, philosophy, science and medicine, commerce, daily correspondence and contracts, in addition to liturgy). This meant not only that well-educated Jews in all parts of the world could correspond in a mutually intelligible language, and that books and legal documents published or written in any part of the world could be read by Jews in all other parts, but that an educated Jew could travel and converse with Jews in distant places, just as priests and other educated Christians could once converse in Latin.
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It has been 'revived' several times as a literary language, and most significantly by the Haskalah (Enlightenment) movement of early and mid-19th century. Near the end of that century the Jewish activist Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, owing to the ideology of the national revival (Hibbat Tziyon, later Zionism), began reviving Hebrew as a modern spoken language. Eventually, as a result of the local movement he created, but more significantly as a result of the new groups of immigrants known under the name of the Second Aliyah, it replaced a score of languages spoken by Jews at that time. Beauty care from Israel Dead Sea
The first written evidence of distinctive Hebrew
, the Gezer calendar, dates back to the 10th century BCE at the beginning of the Monarchic Period, the traditional time of the reign of David and Solomon. Classified as Archaic Biblical Hebrew, the calendar presents a list of seasons and related agricultural activities. The Gezer calendar (named after the city in whose proximity it was found) is written in an old Semitic script, akin to the Phoenician one that through the Greeks and Etruscans later became the Roman script. The Gezer calendar is written without any vowels, and it does not use consonants to imply vowels even in the places where later Hebrew spelling requires it.
In July 2008 Israeli archaeologist Yossi Garfinkel discovered what he says is the oldest known Hebrew inscription. A 3,000-year-old pottery shard bearing five lines of faded characters were found in the ruins of an ancient town south of Jerusalem. Garfinkel noted that the find suggests Biblical accounts of the ancient Israelite kingdom of David could have been based on written texts.
The Shebna lintel, from the tomb of a royal steward found in Siloam, dates to the 7th century BCE.
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In the Golden age of Jewish culture
in Spain important work was done by grammarians in explaining the grammar and vocabulary of Biblical Hebrew; much of this was based on the work of the grammarians of Classical Arabic. A great deal of poetry was written, by poets such as Dunash ben Labrat, Solomon ibn Gabirol, Judah ha-Levi and the two Ibn Ezras, in a "purified" Hebrew based on the work of these grammarians, and in Arabic quantitative or strophic metres.
The need to express scientific and philosophical concepts from Classical Greek and Medieval Arabic motivated Medieval Hebrew to borrow terminology and grammar from these other languages, or to coin equivalent terms from existing Hebrew roots, giving rise to a distinct style of philosophical Hebrew.
Another important influence was Maimonides, who developed a simple style based on Mishnaic Hebrew for use in his law code, the Mishneh Torah. Subsequent rabbinic literature is written in a blend between this style and the Aramaized Rabbinic Hebrew of the Talmud.
Standard Hebrew, as developed by Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, was based on Mishnaic spelling and Sephardi Hebrew pronunciation. However, the earliest speakers of Modern Hebrew had Yiddish as their native tongue and often brought into Hebrew idioms and literal translations from Yiddish.