War of the Languages > The Storm of Posters: The Battle for the Hebrew Language

The Storm of Posters: The Battle for the Hebrew Language

Opinion piece"The War of the Languages" was quick and stormy. What started as a simple decision that the language of instruction in the "Technikum" and its partner high school would be German, developed into a public battle that swept through the Hebrew Yishuv in Eretz Yisrael. On the face of it, this was simply an administrative decision regarding two institutions that had yet to be established: an institute for the instruction of technical professions, and a high school for students going on to major in technical studies. However, the decision that the language of instruction for the most modern and advanced fields would be German was perceived among a population that had acquired an education in Hebrew throughout all the stages of their educational life as a fatal blow for the bourgeoning Hebrew language.

Announcement​The uproar was expressed via posters that were distributed on message boards, on walls and in various advertisements promoted by the two camps  those who sought to protect the Hebrew language in opposition to those who objected to education in Hebrew. The "War of the Languages", which took place over 4 months, from October, 1913 until February, 1914, consolidated the camp of Hebrew supporters: intellectuals in Eretz Yisrael and the Diaspora, students at the teacher's seminary and their teachers, high school students and people from every strata of the Hebrew Yishuv. The opposition also made their voices heard: Figures from the Ultra-Orthodox community, for example, saw the endorsement of Hebrew as a sign of the beginning of the corruption of religion and estrangement from traditional culture. In their view, the normalization of Hebrew was a mockery, for if the Hebrew language would become like every other language, it would lose its ancient and holy status.

The fierce public battle ended with a victory for the Hebrew camp, whose voice was heard loudly through posters. Support for the Hebrew language and the defense of its status as the national language, the language of education, creativity and industry, the language through which the Yishuv and the national Jewish entity in Eretz Yisrael would run, did not end with the War of the Languages. Opinion pieces and slogans, blatant, noisy and excitable pro-Hebrew propaganda, invitations to lectures about the language and its national importance as well the formation of a national-linguistic ethos that would characterize the discourse regarding the Hebrew language throughout the decades, and in many ways, until our time all of these things came together and were born during those stormy months of fall-winter, 1913-1914
  • 1. Gathering in Beit Ha'am in Jaffa
  • 2. Protest in the gymnasium in Herzliya
  • 3. Gathering in Neve Shalom
  • 4. Gathering in Rishon L'Zion
  • 5. Opinion piece
  • 6. Announcement
  • 7. Announcement against the fight for Hebrew