The concept of nation-state developed in Europe and influenced Jews as well. Zionism proposed the rebirth of the Hebrew language as an identity and a national manifestation. Until then, the Hebrew language was only used in prayers, with the Jews that lived in Eastern Europe (Baltic countries, Poland, Ukraine or Russia) using another common language called “Yiddish” (a Jewish language, mixing Hebrew and German), rich in literature, music and cultural traditions, and that many were not willing to give up.
According to Zionists, Yiddish was the language of the Diaspora Ghetto, while Hebrew meant “the rebirth of the homeland”. On the other hand, Yiddish was the language of the Jews from Eastern and Central Europe (since the XI Century), but it was not a language that could be shared by all Jews. Sephardic and Middle Eastern Jews do not know Yiddish nor could they feel bonded to this language.
Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, born Eliezer Yitzhak Perelman (1858–1922), was a linguist and editor of Lithuanian-Jewish newspapers and was responsible for the rebirth and reinstatement of Hebrew as a spoken and written language in modern times. Throughout his life, his motto was “Hebrew, speak Hebrew!!” and he educated his children only with the national language.
During the first years, there was a tendency among Zionists to try to erase their past, names, language and culture from the countries where they had been born. It was said that in Israel a new people should arise, the product of this melting pot of cultures (Kur Hituch). In modern Israel, diversity, languages and international culture are valued and fostered. Probably this is the reaction for more social and personal security.