The following is a translation of an article in the Feb. 1, 2019 edition of the Israeli weekly Makor Rishon. If after reading it you’d like to learn more about the return of Hebrew as a spoken language, please watch our film on the subject: The Revival of Hebrew.
By Avshalom Kor
The historians didn’t write this in any book on our history, and the State of Israel carries on and educates without being aware of the great and terrible truth. This week was more evidence: It was a school trip in Nahal Shiloh (How wonderful! When I was a student, the Jordanian Legion ruled there). A student found an ancient coin. They alerted the archaeological inspector from the civil administration, who published a formal notice:
“An exciting discovery! A rare coin! It will be protected as part of our national treasure. It’s an ancient coin from the days of Agrippa the First and stamped in writing: ‘Agrippa the King.'”
The main point the proclamation didn’t say – and the point isn’t the coin, but what it teaches us. We already knew there was a king in Jerusalem and his name was Agrippa, in the days of the Second Temple around 40 years before the destruction, and he was a descendant of the Hasmoneans.
But the main part wasn’t said: The name of the king engraved on the coin was only in Greek. Do you grasp it? His forefathers came to power because they drove out Greek culture. And he carries a Greek name, and on his coin is engraved only Greek.
Thirty years after the fall of Judah [Maccabee, who led the revolt against the Seleucid Empire].
It’s worth returning to and reminding about this happy connection – deep and terrible – between Hebrew and our history. We were on our land — we left Hebrew, afterwards we lost our land. 1,700 years passed, we returned to Hebrew, and only after did we return to our land. This coin is additional evidence of this fateful fact that the historians ignore. It’s another warning sign.
And literally right now the Bank of Israel produced a card in order that a person can check his cash expenses, and the name: ‘Debit’ card. Why not [חיוב or חיובון – the Hebrew word for debit]? In the United States they speak English. We speak Hebrew! The people of the Bank of Israel have indeed learned economics but they haven’t learned the history of Israel. Agrippa is in Greek, and the Bank of Israel Hellenizes.
That was this week. They wrote in the newspapers, they broadcast on the radio, about economics, security, health, parties, police. The editors didn’t find a place for information more meaningful than all of it: We discovered a coin of a king of Judah who ruled one generation before the destruction and the exile, and the coin was written in Greek.
This information is indeed more important than any: The nation that fought to drive out the foreign conqueror already gave up on its national language.
And shortly thereafter it lost its homeland.
Avshalom Kor is the language adviser for Israel’s Army Radio.
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