Beyond Hebrew: Jews, Nationalism, and Language Diversity in Palestine and Israel

01/26/2017 - 7:00pm
Boone Center
Speaker(s) / Presenter(s): 
Dr. Liora Halperin

Abstract: The promotion of modern Hebrew as a spoken vernacular is often viewed as a central accomplishment of the Zionist movement in Palestine before Israeli statehood. But by viewing twentieth-century history through the lens of language, author Liora Halperin questions the common narrative of a Zionist move away from multilingualism during the years following World War I. She demonstrates how Jews in Palestine remained connected by both preference and necessity to a world of languages outside the boundaries of the pro-Hebrew community even as many of them promoted Hebrew and achieved that language’s dominance. The story of language encounters in the Jewish community of Palestine is a fascinating tale of shifting power relationships, both locally and globally. A young national community was compelled to modify demands for Hebrew exclusivity as it negotiated its relationships with its diverse Jewish populations, Palestinian Arabs, the British, and others outside the margins of the national project and ultimately came to terms with the limitations of its influence and power in an interconnected world.

Bio: Liora R. Halperin is Assistant Professor of History and Jewish Studies and Endowed Professor of Israel/Palestine Studies at the University of Colorado Boulder. She is the author of the book Babel in Zion: Jews, Nationalism, and Language Diversity in Palestine, 1920-1948 (Yale University Press, 2015), which was the winner of the Shapiro Prize in Israel Studies for 2015.


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