The Hebrew Language to Receive Two New Museums, and Maybe More

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Current offices of the Academy of the Hebrew Language on the Hebrew University Givat Ram campus.Credit: Yael Engelhart

Not one but two new museums dedicated to the Hebrew language are to open their doors within the next few years: one in Jerusalem, one in the Tel Aviv suburb of Rishon Letzion. The museum in Jerusalem will be sponsored by the Academy of the Hebrew Language and established with national government support. The museum in Rishon Letzion is a more local endeavor - its funding will come from private donors, with substantial financing expected from the municipality as well. What’s more, sources at the Academy say that another two, possibly three, museums of Hebrew are in the works.

The Academy of the Hebrew Language is an official national institution engaged in the development and research of new Hebrew vocabulary and rulings on Hebrew grammatical questions. The Academy is scheduled to relocate to a nearby government complex from its secluded offices on the Givat Ram campus of Hebrew University. A museum of Hebrew, the first of its kind, will also be built at the new location. It will present the story of the revival of the Hebrew language a little over 100 years ago; the history of the Hebrew Language Committee, which was the Academy’s predecessor; and the transformation of the ancient language. Academy president and head of the museum steering committee, Prof. Moshe Ben-Asher, says the intention is to make the museum a dynamic educational center where audio-visual facilities will demonstrate various aspects of Hebrew and its contact with other languages.

In Rishon Letzion, Mayor Zur insists his city’s project is not in conflict with the planned museum in Jerusalem. “From my standpoint, if another hundred institutions are set up dealing with Hebrew, that would be the biggest victory,” he says. Among his plans, he explains, is to provide a link with universities around the world where Hebrew is taught. The plans call for the museum, which is to be known as “The World Center for Hebrew,” to be built at the city’s Haviv school, which is thought, at least in Rishon Letzion, to be the first school where the entire curriculum was taught in Hebrew. Others give that honor to a school in Rosh Pina in the north. The Rishon museum also intends to tell the history of the language and to make it accessible to the wider public.

Bar-Asher says he has no problem with small museums dedicated to Hebrew, and differentiates such museums from the Academy’s project. “We are establishing a national institution with [national] government support,” he says. Last week Cabinet Secretary Avichai Mandelblit paid a visit to the language academy and discussed the plans for the Jerusalem museum.

The cabinet approved the establishment of the museum last December, and the government committed NIS 500,000 in funding for planning expenses. The World Zionist Organization and the Jerusalem municipality have also committed funds. The Academy has identified a site near the Prime Minister's Office for its new location, but the site does not yet have the approval of the Finance Ministry and the Israel Lands Administration.

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