Welcome to the Hebrew Program!

Hebrew is the language of the Tanakh (the Jewish Bible or Old Testament). It is the language of the ancient Israelites and of the State of Israel today. Hebrew was spoken in the Land of Israel until about the year 200 C.E. at which point it ceased to be an everyday, spoken language, and became a sacred tongue used for prayer, religious studies and writing, and as a lingua franca for Jews who had no other language in common. Yet despite its sacred status, the Hebrew language never really became a "dead language." New lexical items, morphological forms and syntactical changes accrued to it across the almost 2,000 years that it was not commonly spoken.

With the advent of the European Enlightenment, and its Jewish counterpart the Haskalah, the language began to be used again for secular matters. Scientific and historical articles were published in the newly founded Hebrew press; poems and works of fiction were written in Hebrew slowly creating a modern Hebrew idiom appropriate for the times.

Hebrew was revived as a spoken language thanks to the efforts of a determined Hebrew lover, Eliezer ben Yehuda, who, from the moment he embarked on a ship to sail to Palestine in 1882, insisted on speaking only Hebrew. Ben Yehuda coined many new words and wrote the first modern dictionary of Hebrew in all its incarnations.

Today Hebrew is one of the official languages of the State of Israel. It is still used in prayer and for religious purposes, but has a rich street and contemporary life all of its own. Despite the length of time from biblical Hebrew to now, the differences between contemporary Israeli Hebrew and the language of the Bible are relatively small. Thus learning the contemporary language may serve as a means both for dealing with life in Israel and for biblical and religious studies.

The Hebrew Program at present offers a six-semester cycle of Hebrew language study which includes the possibility of participating in a CU study abroad program in Israel.