Zionist Terminology and the Jewish Sources: Berl Katznelson and the Creation of the Term 'Hanhalat Halashon' (Bequeathing the Language)

Rona Yona

Abstract: The Zionist movement is a unique and interesting example of the twentieth-century appropriation of Jewish sources in political thought and action. The Socialist Zionist movement in the early years of the Zionist enterprise and through the establishment of the State of Israel is often considered to have broken with Jewish tradition in its essentially modern project. Yet Jewish values such as the Hebrew language, however controversial, played an important part in its vision. This case study of the formation of Zionist terminology explores the coining of the term ‘hanhalat halashon’ (bequeathing the language) by Berl Katznelson. Later adopted as the official name for the government program of teaching Hebrew to Israel’s Jewish immigrants and building a Hebrew-speaking nation, the term allows us to view the Zionist movement’s complex relationship with Jewish tradition, which it at times strove to realize, at times to renew, and at times to change and reinterpret.

Biography: Rona Yona bears a first degree from the school of history and sociology and anthropology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and masters degree in history from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Her masters thesis focused on the Underground Literature of Muslims in Christian Spain in the Sixteenth Century. She is currently working on a Ph.D. at Tel Aviv University on cultural history of the Zionist pioneering movement, the Eastern European roots of Israeli identity and culture.

Volume 2, Number 4 (Fall 2007) pp. 448-469