A language is a dialect with an army (and a navy): The case of modern Hebrew

Without Christian missionaries, many indigenous languages would never have acquired a written form. Many of these languages would have never acquired the status of a “language” and would have remained in the less honorary state of “dialect.” Sometimes it took more than a missionary to do the job; it took an army and a navy. The Jewish linguist, Max Weinreich is famous for the quip A shprakh iz a diyalekt mit an armey un a flot – “A language is a dialect with an army and a navy (1945).

If a country has a big army, few would be willing to mess with it. Which brings me to the Zionist state of Israel. According to Neturei Karta (Ultra-Orthodox Judaism), the
Zionist movement’s early misfortune was that it lacked what other nations possessed, namely, a state and army. “Their salvation is possession of a state and army etc. This is clearly spelled out in the circles of Zionist thought, and among the leaders of the Zionist State, that through changing the nature and character of the People of Israel and by changing their way of thinking they can set before the People of Israel ‘salvation’ — a state and an army..”

Neturei Karta gives several reasons why the Zionist State is contrary to the Torah. Here is their first reason:

“FIRST — The so-called “State of Israel” is diametrically opposed and completely contradictory to the true essence and foundation of the People of Israel, as is explained above. The only time that the People of Israel were permitted to have a state was two thousand years ago when the glory of the creator was upon us, and likewise in the future when the glory of the creator will once more be revealed, and the whole world will serve Him, then He Himself (without any human effort or force of arms) will grant us a kingdom founded on Divine Service. However, a worldly state, like those possessed by other peoples, is contradictory to the true essence of the People of Israel. Whoever calls this the salvation of Israel shows that he denies the essence of the People of Israel, and substitutes another nature, a worldly materialistic nature, and therefore sets before them, a worldly materialistic “salvation,” and the means of achieving this “salvation” is also worldly and materialistic i.e. to organize a land and army. However, the true salvation of the People of Israel is to draw close to the Creator. This is not done by organization and force of arms. Rather it is done by occupation to Torah and good deeds.”

((See Neturei Karta’s other reasons here http://www.nkusa.org/AboutUs/Zionism/opposition.cfm).

Neturei Karta states that this the “Orthodox” position of the “People of Israel.” Many Orthodox Jews (those who are strict observers of the Torah precepts) would not find any contradiction between Zionism and Orthodoxy.

Could it be that modern Hebrew, the lingua Franca of Israel, is a language today because the Zionist State has a strong army (if not such a strong navy)?

5 thoughts on “A language is a dialect with an army (and a navy): The case of modern Hebrew

  1. bography wrote, above, “According to Neturei Karta (Ultra-Orthodox Judaism)….”

    Have a look at http://www.adl.org/extremism/karta/.

    The Neturei Karta are representative of the Jewish world in the same sense that al Qaeda represents the sensibilities of Christians.

    And when bography throws around the offensive “ultra-” with reference to religious Jews, it is yet another dig by bog at his estranged family. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haredi_Judaism for more.

    • Anon
      When you equated Neturei Karta with Al Qaeda I immediately thought of the video I saw of the meeting of NK with Ahmadinejad in the US a few years ago. And lo and behold your URL link took me straight to this event.

      Can you please indicate anything that NK said in my post that you disagree with.

      As for the Ultra appellation, I’m taking a leaf out of Haaretz’s “book”:

      “More than half of Israel’s ultra-Orthodox living in poverty

      Findings to be presented to the Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee on Tuesday.

      Haaretz, Israel/November 7, 2010

      By Zvi Zrahiya

      Some 56% of the country’s Haredi (ultra-Orthodox ) citizens live under the poverty line, and Haredim makes up 20% of the country’s poor, the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry has found. Yet they constitute only 10% of the population.”


      • You asked “Can you please indicate anything that NK said in my post that you disagree with”, apparently presuming that I would read or consider anything that Neturei Karta have said. I would not. Just because some of Neturei Karta’s other ideas, that in no way particularly define Neturei Karta, may or may not be outrageous, does not remove their organizational stigma devolving from their defining, odious beliefs and activities. Similarly, under Hitler’s administration, marriage licenses were issued and traffic lights functioned throughout Germany, and yet no one with a healthy mind would present Hitler as the personification of modern Western government. When you appoint the anti-Semitic Neturei Karta as representative of the Jewish world and its views, your readers cannot and should not be expected to get past the sting of that insult to take seriously the arguments you seek to build on that obnoxiously offensive and false foundation.

        With respect to Haaretz, and it’s usage of “ultra-“, do you consider that newspaper to be without an agenda? Do you consider Haaretz to be a model for secularists’ respectful acceptance of and encouragement of progressive cooperation with Israel’s religious community? And, if not, then why would you adopt the tools of their propaganda campaign? Do you, too, seek to marginalize Israel’s only growing Jewish demographic?

        • Anaon, you said:

          You asked “Can you please indicate anything that NK said in my post that you disagree with”, apparently presuming that I would read or consider anything that Neturei Karta have said. I would not.

          My question is: Are any of your opinions on anything based on any research, which surely involves reading?

          As for Haaretz,

          “Haaretz (Hebrew: הארץ) (lit. “The Land”, originally Ḥadashot Ha’aretz – Hebrew: חדשות הארץ, IPA: [χadaˈʃot haˈʔaʁets] – “News of the Land”[2]) is Israel’s oldest daily newspaper. It was founded in 1918 and is now published in both Hebrew and English in Berliner format. The English edition is published and sold together with the International Herald Tribune. Both Hebrew and English editions can be read on the Internet. In North America, it comes out as a weekly newspaper, combining articles from the Friday edition with a roundup from the rest of the week.”

          “Compared to other mass circulation papers in Israel, Haaretz uses smaller headlines and print. Less space is devoted to pictures, and more to political analysis. Its editorial pages are considered influential among government leaders…..Despite its relatively low circulation in Israel, Haaretz is considered Israel’s most influential daily newspaper. Its readership includes Israel’s intelligentsia and its political and economic elites. Surveys show that Haaretz readership has a higher-than-average education, income, and wealth; most are Ashkenazim. Shmuel Rosner, the newspaper’s former U.S. correspondent, told The Nation, “people who read it are better educated and more sophisticated than most, but the rest of the country doesn’t know it exists.”


      • Sheesh Raf! First you tell me not to let the rabbinical tradition from Sinai inform my understanding of Scripture, and then you criticize me for not letting random theologians with no knowledge of what went down at Sinai influence my thinking about Scripture. I guess there’s no pleasing you.

        Let’s avoid swerving into a pointless discussion of whether Neturei Karta and Haaretz stand for something quite apart from what religious Jews stand for. Let’s do that by leaving them out of our discussion. Let’s talk about Jesus, and whether Christian lore about him squares in any way with the Biblical prophecy about a messiah with a particular lineage, character, and accomplishment. Fair enough?

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