Home of the reviver of the Hebrew language Eliezer Ben-Yehuda.
Eliezer died in December 16th 1922 a short time before the house was completed. His wife Chemda lived in the house until her death in 1951. Over the years Chemda turned the place into a commemoration center of Ben-Yehuda’s life achievement.
A few years later the family of Ben-Yehuda donated the house to the municipality of Jerusalem.
In 1965 the municipality rented the house to private residents and in 1971 Jerusalem’s former mayor Teddy Kollek decided to hand it over to Aktion Sühnezeichen Friedensdienste (ASF), a volunteer organization based in Germany.
In 2004 a new wing was built in the backyard of the house in order to be used as a seminar center for the German volunteers.
In the same year the decision was made to found “Beit Ben Yehuda” as the International Meeting Center and Guesthouse we have today. The ambitious goal to establish a guesthouse that opens its doors for everyone and to create a place that is a cultural center for learning was set. With a focal point on German-Israeli relations we do offer a variety of different seminars, workshops, lectures, language courses and other events on historical, sociological, political and cultural topics, such as German, Hebrew and Yiddish courses.
Picture: Eliezer Ben-Yehuda Ph.D (grandson), at the Mezuzah Placing Ceremony.
Eliezer Ben Yehuda (1858 – 1922)
Eliezer Ben Yehuda was the main figure in the transformation of Hebrew from an only cultural and religiously used language to a living, spoken language that is currently used in all parts of society and daily life by millions of Israelis and Jews all over the world. He made an incredible intellectual and political effort to disseminate his linguistic innovations and modern Hebrew style in Hebrew newspapers, through his Complete Dictionary of Ancient and Modern Hebrew (1908-59) and by establishing the Hebrew Language Council (1889).
Born January 7th 1858 in the small Lithuanian city of Lushki Eliezer Yitzhak Perelman (later Eliezer Ben Yehuda) received a traditional Jewish education and already started learning the Hebrew language from Torah and Talmud before he was three years old. During the second half of the 19th century, when the idea of modern nation states and its new political movements appeared Ben Yehuda became a supporter of the Haskala (Jewish Enlightenment) and the Zionist movement (Jewish national movement).
Together with many other European Jews in the diaspora he shared the vision of rehabilitating the Jewish nation and its ancient language in a self-determined, liberal way in its historical homeland: Erez Israel (Ottoman Empire at that time). Committed to this idea Ben Yehuda left Lithua in 1876 to study medicine in Paris, in order to provide new immigrants in Erez Israel with practical medical help. In numerous articles he already urged for a rehabilitation of the Hebrew language as a connecting language between all Jews worldwide. Acting on this theory Ben Yehuda determined that he should go to Erez Israel (the Ottoman province of Palestine) in 1881. At that time only a very poor, apolitical Jewish population was to find in this area mainly living in the cities of Jerusalem, Hebron, Safed and Teberias. To fulfill his goal Ben Yehuda developed all kinds of different methods one was to only speak the Modern Hebrew language at home, with is children, because he believed in the power of the upcoming generations. (see: autobiography of Itamar Ben-Avi)
In the first years, his success was very small and only a few families followed his example. Hebrew speaking residential areas such as Rishon LeZion were an exception. In the 1890’s a challenge from the pious members of the population (Charedim), who from the beginning on, already in Europe, where highly against a daily use of the holy language of the Torah, escalated. Ben Yehuda was denounced as a threat to the Ottoman government on account of his continued call towards a Hebrewisation of the county and was put in prison for a year. Only after a second big immigration wave towards Erez Israel from European Jews fleeing from Anti-Semitism in the early 20th century the modern Hebrew became a language of daily life as well as the language of political Zionism. When the first so called Hebrew city Tel Aviv was founded in 1909 it became a symbol of a new Jewish self-confidence and Israeli lifestyle. Now the Hebrew language was understood as advancement, as part of the process of secularization, modernization and Zionism.
On December 16th 1922 Ben Yehuda died in Jerusalem from tuberculosis – only a few days after Hebrew was recognized by the British mandate as the official language of the Jews in Palestine. Ben Yehuda’s son was the first Jewish child in Erez Israel that had Hebrew as his mother tongue. Today numerous street signs in Israel remember us on Eliezer Ben Yehuda and his son.
(quoted from: Dr. Mordechay Mishor, Dena Ordan: Eliezer Ben Yehuda (1858-1922) – Reviver of Spoken Hebrew.)
‘Before Ben Yehuda Jews could speak Hebrew, after him they did’
(Cecil Roth, Jewish historian in Oxford/Great Britain)