Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Bye Bye Matthew

Matthew Yglesias just arrived and he's already left, full of satisfaction with himself for having come to learn, and smug in his conviction that he didn't need to learn all that much because he already knew lots of it. He was hosted by Didi Remez, whom long-time readers of this blog may recognize as an ideologically driven member of our far Left who isn't very convincing unless you agree with him. I'm recording Matthew's arrogance of lecturing to the Israelis who just can't see things as he and Didi see them, and his total lack of curiosity: if people don't see things his way they're wrong, and he has no reason to wonder why they might see things otherwise.

Before I sign off following him, however, here's a tidbit that rather sums it up:
Since I’ve got Israel on the brain, it strikes me in this regard that it’s perhaps unfortunate that the early Zionist leaders decided to revive Hebrew rather than use the Jewish state to ensure the continued existence of Yiddish and Ladino. The successful revival is enormously impressive as a pure example of clear ideological vision but that’s a lot of lost literature and such. 
Umm, Matthew: Yiddish literature didn't really start until the 2nd half of the 19th century, and Ladino, so far as I know, never created much literature at all. This means that modern Hebrew literature was born at roughly the exact same moment in time as Yiddish literature; not to mention everything else that was ever created in Hebrew, all along.

Matthew, incurious as he is, won't be interested, but if any of you are, there's a fine readable story of Yiddish literature in Aaron Lansky's Outwitting History: The Amazing Adventures of a Man Who Rescued a Million Yiddish Books

I warmly recommend.

Oh, and apropos American bloggers coming to Israel to learn or not to learn, Michael Totten has put up his next installment in his reports from Israel.


Barry Meislin said...

Well, "brain" may be going a bit too far....

But one may well assume that the "point" (hint, hint....) of this pompous, progressive paragon is that the "enormously impressive" Zionists (see how hard we strive in spite of everything to be fair, to be gracious) are (ALSO) responsible for killing off Yiddish and Ladino literature.

So that not only are the Zionists responsible for denying Palestinian's their rich and multi-layered, millenia-long culture; but irony of delicious ironies, the Zionists (those rabid, reckless, driven ideologues, blind to culture and "the other" in their midst) have decimated their own.

Ergo, Zionists prove (once again?)to be the Jews' worst enemies.... (O the profundity, the profundity, the sheer profundity ...)

RK said...

I guess stuff like the Bovo-Bukh can be finessed
away with that "really" (in "really start"), but what about the more reasonable complaint that Israel shouldn't have suppressed Yiddish theatre and newspapers? Suppressed, as in censored: interested readers can pick up Yael Chaver's That Which Must Be Forgotten, or any one of the many other books on the subject. Or just talk to any older Yiddish speakers in Israel; I just met two here in Haifa this morning.

Lee Ratner said...

Yaacov, I believe that there was Yiddish literature since at least the late Middle Ages. According to Words on Fire, Medieval Jews were translating chivalric romances into Yiddish during the Middle Ages. There is a legitimage argument to be made about Yiddish having a centuries old literary tradition.

Anonymous said...

Yglesias gets paid to throw red meat at his left wing audience. If he did anything else, he wouldn't get hits on his blog which is what he is paid to do. He simply is not a credible source of analysis anymore especially in areas he knows very little about like Israel.

Anonymous said...

In my experience Iglesias has a lot of breadth but little depth. One can't possibly be expert on all the issues he blogs about, and he isn't.


Anonymous said...

Somehow, I suspect it is precisely the secular literature of the 2nd half of the 19th century that Matt thinks is worth preserving. Besides, I thought Yiddish has been preserved in Israel, albeit as the unintended consequence of a quite different decision?

peterthehungarian said...

Yglesiais is not the first. Anthony Lerman, one of the Guardian court-Jews wrote an article on Comment Is Free about the subject - the Zionist dictators eliminated the cultures and languages of the olim by violently enforcing the use of the Hebrew language.

Anonymous said...

The IDF has a nice fluff piece about the first Arab-Israeli IDF officer:

To which Ynet has some interesting additions:,7340,L-3968706,00.html


Anonymous said...

just to offer another piece of sane writing to complement Michael Totten

Lee Smith on the Loyalty Oath - in case anybody is interested I can provide a link to an interview Tibi gave in the US

Under Oath
Israel’s controversial new oath of allegiance reflects the reality of sectarian politics in the Middle East


Anonymous said...

as to languages

Greeks tried something interesting
in the middle seventies they still had two languages:

Dhimotiki i.e. folksy - the language everyone spoke, which was used in newspapers, literature, TV

Katharevusa - i.e. pure closer to ancient Greek - the language of laws, notaries etc.

They abandonned the split (probably) in the early 80s

The European Union still operates with 27 languages while its lingua franca is said to be English and there are constant attempts to get rid of the huge translation load.

I think any half way reasonable new state/institution would be wise to agree on one official common language right from scratch.

Not long ago I was told on this blog that the to me miraculous fact that "normal" Israelis can read ages old stone inscriptions is due to the fact that modern Hebrew is so closely related to that heritage. That convinced me that whoever decided to favour a right to left language with crazy letters must have been very very wise.


Anonymous said...

Well, Israel already has two official languages, replacing one of those semitic languages with two from the Indo-European family, that had little meaning to the Mizrahi community, hardly seems a serious proposal.

Joe in Australia said...

There were other Jewish languages besides the ones Matthew Yglesias mentions, the most obvious ones being the Jewish dialects of Aramaic and Arabic, but I seem to recall there were a number of others - perhaps as many dialects as there were diasporas.

Bryan said...

Dear Matthew: on behalf of philologists and linguists everywhere, I beseech you to shut your mouth about things about which you know very little. So often languages die, but it is very rare indeed that a dead language is revived. The study of a revived language (and how to breathe life into dying languages) is tremendous valuable.

Of course, "violently suppress the use of the mother tongue and promote the fledgling language" is not exactly rocket surgery, but now at least it has precedent.

(This is a point that makes me very angry about places like Ireland where the government and the people make a half-effort to revive their language, which was ruthlessly stamped out by the British. You're never going to revive Irish by making it a second language in Irish schools. Either you go all-in and publicly shun the use of English, or you let Irish die. Choose one or the other, but don't drag it along like some burden you hate.)

liamalpha said...

Hebrew is the true and original language of the Jews. Despited their importance, Yiddish and Ladino are adopted languages. Jewish puplis were always taught Hebrew in school, if only so that they could read in the Torah.
When I visited the Jewish quarter in Prague I was amazed to see diaries from the 17th century, written in Hebrew, telling of how the Jews of Prague helped fight off the invading Swedes in the 30 years war.
Also, some years ago, when I was showing a couple of German friends around Israel. I can still feel the pride and the excitement of being able to read the original Dead Sea scrolls for them.
Hebrew is the language that united Jews across geography and the ages. If there is anything to lament is the deteriorating condition of Hebrew today...

Rabbi Tony Jutner said...

Michael Chabon has a great vision of this in his antidote to Herzls Judenstaat, known as the Yiddish Policemans Union. It is truly a program worth considering moving Israelis to the Aleutian Islands, where they wont cause further trouble

Anonymous said...

I am sorry to say that you are sadly behind in keeping up with the news

if global warming continues the Arctic will become a major area of competition - the contenders are moving into place all around it

i.e. Jews would find themselves in no time whatsoever once again smack in the middle of it


Anonymous said...

This article suggests that at the very least a pidgin form of Hebrew was being used in 'Eretz Yisrael' before Ben-Yehuda.


Anonymous said...

Guess who's studying modern Hebrew?