This fellow is a young Israeli linguist who teaches at a university in Brisbane (which is pretty far away). I met him at that conference in Melbourne, where he gave some excellent lectures which I enjoyed no end while fundamentally disagreeing. He thinks Modern Hebrew is so far from Ancient Hebrew that it should be called Israeli.
It seems to me that this is a cultural matter. If you live in Tel Aviv, are secular and know next to nothing about the vast Jewish literature created in Hebrew these past three millenia or so, but enjoy the vitality and exuberance of the local language, you can be forgiven for thinking it's new and going places. If on the other hand that literature is something you engage on a daily basis, it's hard to see how your present language is going to detach itself from the traditional one. English, I'm told, is evolving so rapidly that Shakespeare, who wrote a mere 500 years ago, is already falling out of contemporary English. But then again, what proportion of English speakers read Shakespeare on a daily basis?
Today is Tisha Be-Av, the 9th day of the month of Av, the main day of national mourning on the Jewish calender. At the services yesterday morning we read the first chapter of Isaiah, just as Jews have been doing Saturday morning before the 9th of Av for the past 2000 years:
16. wash and make yourselves clean.
Take your evil deeds
out of my sight!
Stop doing wrong,
17 learn to do right!
encourage the oppressed.
Defend the cause of the fatherless,
plead the case of the widow.
Except that we read it in Hebrew, of course, and any school child can understand it. I have always found it striking that the basic Jewish texts are not heroic paeans but rather stern admonitions about all the things we're doing wrong. Yesterday evening and again this morning we read another section of the Bible, Lamentations, again in Hebrew anyone around here can understand effortlessly (probably better than the rather stilted English):
chapter 2, verse 17: The LORD has done what he planned;
he has fulfilled his word,
which he decreed long ago.
He has overthrown you without pity,
he has let the enemy gloat over you,
he has exalted the horn of your foes.
chapter 5, 18: for Mount Zion, which lies desolate,
with jackals prowling over it.
Except that it isn't desolate, is it, and there aren't any jackals prowling over it. I know because it's less than two miles from here, and I was last there about a month ago.
It's days like this which underline how extraordinarily foolish some people can be when they rant about the foreign Jewish colonialists who barged in to someone else's land.