War of the Languages

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The Storm of Posters: The Battle for the Hebrew Language.

The war of the languages (Hebrew: מלחמת השפות‎; Milhemet HaSafot) was a heated debate in Ottoman Palestine over the language of instruction in the country's new Jewish schools. This "language war" was a cornerstone event in the history of the revival of the Hebrew language.


In 1913, the German Jewish aid agency Hilfsverein der deutschen Juden [de], which had maintained schools for Jewish immigrants in Palestine since 1905, sought to establish German as the language of instruction at the first technical high school, the Technikum, in Haifa (later, the Technion), which it was sponsoring.[1][2] This sparked a public controversy between those who supported the use of German and those who believed that Hebrew should be the language spoken by the Jewish people in their homeland. The issue was not just ideological: until then, Hebrew was primarily a liturgical language and lacked modern technical terms.[3]

The Haifa City Museum produced an exhibit on the "War of the Languages" curated by Svetlana Reingold, in 2011.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Spolsky, Bernard, and Elana Shohamy (2001). "The Penetration of English as Language of Science and Technology into the Israeli Linguistic Repertoire: A Preliminary Inquiry", in: Ulrich Ammon (Ed.), The Dominance of English as a Language of Science: Effects on Other Languages and Language Communities. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. ISBN 311016647X. p. 167-176; here: p. 169.
  2. ^ Kremer, Arndt (January 30, 2015). "Brisante Sprache? Deutsch in Palästina und Israel" ‹See Tfd›(in German). Section "Frühe Siedlungen, erste Kontroversen". Aus Politik und Zeitgeschichte. Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung. www.bpb.de. Retrieved 2016-10-05.
  3. ^ How German built the Hebrew language
  4. ^ Parasczczuk, Joanna (25 March 2011). "With words, not weapons". Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 16 January 2019.

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