Answers to Quora Questions
When The Zionists were planning the modern nation of Israel, was thought given to choose another language other than Hebrew as the official language?
Regarding the early settlement of secular Jews in the region of Palestine under the rule of the Ottoman Turks: There were those in the early 1900s who wanted German to be the spoken tongue. See:. This struggle entailed the surreptitious destruction of printing presses in the German tongue.
Hebrew was considered too archaic. German was modern, European, and not too different from Yiddish with which most Jews were familiar. Hebrew was spoken by some of the Sephardim and by a few of the Ashkenazim on Shabatot. At all events the advocates of German were overruled by popular sentiment which was in favor of Hebrew.
In Europe the Haskalal (Enlightenment) Movement since the 1770s had attempted to modernize the Jewish masses. One aspects of this struggle had been the introduction of popular literature in what was alleged to be an unadulterated modernized Hebrew. Or so it is claimed. I however read Rabbinical Hebrew and have found the Hebrew of Rabbinical scholars such as the Radak (i.e. Rabbi David Kimhi, 1160-1235), and Rabbi Yaakov Tzvi Mecklenburg (1785-1865) to be closer to present-day Hebrew than that of the Haskalah. Meshulam Klarberg, a Jewish Orthodox social linguist, told me that in practice the early Zionists used a Hebrew derived mainly from the Bible (Tanak) especially the Torah and from Pirkai Avot which is a very popular short tract of moral exhortations in the Mishna.
At all events, one of the secular Zionists, Eliezer Ben-Yehuda (1858-1922), apparently did much to modernize Hebrew and popularize its acceptance as an every day medium.