The Hebrew Language

The stamp highlights Hebrew's uniqueness: its continued existence even after it ceased to be spoken, the treasures that were added to its vocabulary throughout the ages, and its modern revival as the everyday language of Israel.

Hebrew is an ancient language that was spoken over the course of many centuries in the Land of Israel and subsequently preserved by Jews throughout the Diaspora as a medium of cultural and religious expression. With the rise of Zionism and the State of Israel, the Hebrew language was revived as a spoken tongue and enriched with many new terms and constructions to reflect the reality of modern life. Modern Hebrew draws on all of the previous layers of the language's history. Ancient words are ascribed new meanings and new words are created following patterns and paradigms native to the ancient tongue. It has also absorbed some modern terms from other languages, as happens with all languages.

Biblical Hebrew provided the most basic words, such as adam (man), yom (day) and mafte'akh (key), as well as a lot of abstract terms such as ahava (love, brotherhood), d'ror (liberty) and emet (truth).

Mishnaic Hebrew is the Hebrew used in rabbinic writings such as the Mishnah (Jewish legal code) and books of biblical interpretation. It too was originally a spoken language, a dialect somewhat different from, and later than, standard biblical Hebrew. From it came a number of new coinages, some of them deriving from Hebrew's daily contact with Aramaic, another language of the region. It added to Hebrew such terms as ilan (tree), khazar (returned) – different from their equivalents in biblical Hebrew – as well as words that are unattested in biblical Hebrew, such as kaveret (beehive) and gesher (bridge).

Medieval Hebrew, a written language that flourished among Jews in both Muslim and Christian lands, added such words as ekhut (quality), as well as a number of terms borrowed directly from Arabic, such as ta'arikh (date). New words created in Medieval Hebrew poetry are also in use in Modern Hebrew, such as ma'as (action, deed) and mivkhan (test).

Modern Period - Starting with the rise of modern Hebrew literature in the mid-18th century onward, and especially since Hebrew's revival as a spoken tongue in the early 20th century, the language has had to face the continual challenge of preserving its ancient spirit while adapting to modernity. New terms to fit modern society and technology had to be wrested from old roots and paradigms. Some of these innovations were created by individuals on their own initiative, while others originated thanks to institutions, in particular the Hebrew Language Committee and its successor, the Academy of the Hebrew Language. The Academy established the Historical Dictionary Project, which seeks to preserve and catalogue treasures of Hebrew throughout the ages. Among the modern words listed on the stamp are makhshev (computer), monit (taxi) and khamtzan (oxygen).

The Modern Hebrew language is still a work in progress, a vigorous new idiom growing, like the plant depicted in the stamp, out of several roots. The stamp depicts these roots - the Biblical, Mishnaic, Mediieval and Modern Period - with example of words from each one. The plant's leaves form the word Ivrit (meaning Hebrew in the Hebrew language).

The stamp was issued in 2011. Designer: David Ben-Hador.